Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Child-like Wonder

   Today I worked through eight long hours of entomology..long because normally this is a six week course given to us in one day. Jam packed with information, identification and some wicked gnarly video footage I came home with information overload. While many of my classmates were grossed out and driven to nausea, I have to say my reaction was quite different.
   I marvel at the wonder of the inner workings of a microscopic insect..at the predatory nature of a mantis..the purpose of a phorid fly. Does the nervous system of a grasshopper not drive you to ponder the amazing intricate details God put in place? The irony of the fact lice have mites? Thrips only have one mandible yet are devastating to a rose garden. Metamorphosis...my imagination cannot even fathom the amazing mind that put this order in place. Awe and fascination captivated me as the professor exclaimed again and again...Isn't that cool? Indeed!
    Sadly it is true, others do not share my child-like fascination..often shaking their head at my 'simple' ways, but how can you not see a seed transform from a dormant speck into a mighty photosynthesizing marvel? These courses are intense, and at times, difficult..but what keeps me pushing forward is the constant revelations of an amazing God through His glorious creation. Bees pollinating, plants that self-fertilize, caterpillars that transform into amazing butterflies..none other than God could place such detailed order.
    My ride home winds me down, giving me time to consider such things. Articulated exoskeletons are quite amazing when you realize they are the jointed legs of a cricket that make such beautiful sounds. Digesting such mountains of information leaves me sitting at the table chattering ninety to nothing at my poor husband in the few moments we have together before he heads to work.
    Now, in the quite of the night, images of tiny aphids and large walking sticks flicker in my mind. My head upon my pillow, all I can do is marvel...in child-like wonder.

     

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How Do I Know What to Grow?

   People are buzzing with interest in growing a garden; more so this year than ever before. The question crossing my path more and more these days..How do I know what to grow? It always take me back a bit because, for me, gardening is like breathing..I've been doing it as long as I can remember, and..well..I grow whatever I want.
   For the novice gardener just starting out I recommend taking one step at time. Start with what you currently eat. What are the things you find yourself purchasing regularly? Lettuce, green beans, tomatoes? Take a minute to write down what you find yourself purchasing already and go from there.
   Once we know what we like to eat, look at what you are willing to eat. Sometimes the veggies we routinely buy aren't well suited for our gardening area. I live in the deep south so crisp head lettuces are not practical for my gardening climate, but I am willing to eat leaf or soft head varieties like Mesclun or Buttercrunch. English cucumbers are long and tasty, but they tend to grow bitter for me in my garden so I change out little munchers instead. Look at what you are willing to change on when it comes to practical productivity.
    Amount. Take a minute to consider how many you intend to feed, or if this is a hobby garden. I am a canner so my garden is intended to be bountiful. Mine is intended to feed my household both in season and out and be productive enough to share with others. 
   Another consideration is time and space. Some garden crops are time consuming to upkeep..needing heavy feeding, trellising or routine pruning. Do you have time to fertilize every couple of weeks for plump sweet corn? Do you have the space to grow potatoes? Carrots are seriously slow growing and will take up garden space while you wait for them. Some crops are more cost effective for a small garden grower because space and time in the space is just not practical.
   What about me personally? I get a lot of questions about what I grow routinely in my garden. First let me say, I have three large garden plots on my homestead; they rotate seasonally. One entire garden is based on a herbal tea set up containing culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, and roses. An entire garden is set aside for the traditional 'Three Sisters Garden'. Here sweet corn grows and provides a trellis for runner beans while melon vines trail under their feet. Grown in succession, once harvested the section is sown in cover crop and left to rest until the next cycle. A traditional plot grows in the third plot in spring and fall. Set up in the 'Victory Garden' style this garden hold cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower), leafy greens (lettuce, kale, chard, spinach) onions and roots (carrot, potato) until summer when cucumbers/squash, beans, peppers and tomatoes take their place.
   Are you a new gardener? Consider getting in touch with your local extension office for a list of recommended plants for your area. They have excellent lists readily available for you. The soil is calling, lets get growing. 
  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Simply Serving: "Be Real"



   In my experience..kids can spot fake a mile a way. If my desire is to reach their hearts with the love of Christ, showing He is real, then I need to be real as well...but what does that mean? read more...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Morning Under the Myrtles

   On those mornings not committed to my certification class I can be found in the back yard under the myrtles. Coffee in hand, my seat is an iron table and chairs once belonging to my mother. Notebook, camera, and a steamy cup accompany me to this special place. Here I soak up the scents and sounds of the homestead..always joined by my curious four legged ones.
   This is my place for studying- these days there is a lot of studying going on. Notes and lists are jotted down- all those things my attention seems to forget. Outlines are scribbled to organize the random thoughts swirling around in my head. Here and there a design is sketched for that upcoming project that 'appeared' to me as I gazed at the sky.
   From here I see the kitchen window where the farm boy sits doing some studying of his own. Chickens scratch the far garden beds digging grubs and nasty weedlings. The turkeys stand at their fence waiting for me to come near- their occasional gobble gets my attention..they miss me. Doc saunters over to give me a nudge..I can't manage a thing without this crazy donkey..he keeps me on my toes while the goats snitch a paper from my table..Ruth believes she is my editor and must destroy this latest blasphemy. All to quickly they move on to the nearby garden currently open for their grazing. Clover and cabbage stalks are much more interesting than my dribble.
   What comes from these mornings under the myrtles? Direction and focus. Here thoughts take shape and become progress. Sighs become prayers that lighten burdens. Love comes when a teen happens over with half an orange to share..or when a goat nibble becomes a kiss on the elbow. As I sit here nature is observed while notes and sketches from lectures come to life; woods behind me are filled with interesting live specimens.
     The sun shifts just in time for my chapter to end; the coffee is empty and the herd has moved on. Time to put feet to my plans. This beautiful time is over for now..but in a few days I will find it again and spend those precious few moments out here gazing and dreaming under the myrtles.


***these crepe myrtles were planted by my parents when they lived here..they are dormant and bare now, but summer sun will once again find them full of bring fushia blooms..a color I would never have chosen, but one that depicts her style and taste so clearly. One of my girls, when she was little, always called them 'cranky mables'. These tidbits make them precious to me..a treasure in my own backyard.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Getting in the Middle

   A common topic of controversy and disdain is the matter of the middle: batting. Many a quilter holds firm to their convictions about the fluffy stuff tucked between the layers of their treasures. Some stand firm on the tried but true poly blends and others snub their noses at anything less that all natural wool/cotton. Novice quilters spend their time toting home precut bags of fabric-store-stuff, just relieved it didn't cost too an arm and a leg. Over my years of quilting I have tried them all..from poly to natural..high loft to low..and all the stores had to offer- I even quilted a few with straight flannel middles, and one with a fleece backing. Let's get up close and personal with what happens in the middle.

To read more, please visit our Simply Hand Quilting page.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sunday





   My personal study this week found me in the book of Daniel marveling at the situation Daniel found himself in. Even more amazing is the notion to purpose in his heart not to defile himself. In our world today rulers place before us a choice...can we, like Daniel, not only purpose in our hearts not to defile ourselves but also follow through with that purpose. The temptations are ever before us and the crowd follows easily..can I be a Daniel?

Daniel 1

King James Version (KJV)
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes;
Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.
11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat.
16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
18 Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.
20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
21 And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Come See Me at.....

2013-cropped-FnN-small-flye
   Many of you may know I am working through my Master Gardener internship which means the next few days will find me preparing for our January fruit and nut tree sale. I look forward to sharing a smile, shaking your hand, and finding the answers to your questions as you visit us Saturday morning.
   If you are not a local friend, I encourage you to look into your county extension garden programs to see if Master Gardener courses or sales are available in your area.
   Now, let's get growing!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Simply Serving: Make the Room Work for You

    I am an interactive teacher who loves creative interaction. For me, a classroom holds opportunity and promise...but also a great challenge. The room is a first impression that can either intimidate or welcome..it can inspire or stifle. Preparations for a lesson always include making the room work for me; getting the right setting for engaging every aspect of a child and sparking their interests.
    First consideration: what's available? Tables and chairs? Open floor space? Shelves or a sink? Some classrooms are equip with toys or books. Along with the available elements, layout is important. If I share a space with another ministry then I need to be mindful about the set up. Knowing the elements that already exist and how they are arranged help me set my mind to the next order of business.
   My next consideration: What do I have at home? Basic art/craft supplies, paper goods, and some toys can easily be toted back and forth. Cookie sheets and magnets, rice in a tub, simple every day items can be creative avenues for little hands. It is amazing what house hold goods have traveled with me to aid in the lessons of the day.
   Another question on the list: Do I have help? This helps me determine how far apart to set creative stations, not to mention some activities are just easier with a few more hands.
   When a child enters my classroom there are tables or corners of activity waiting for them... a kitchen set up, a table with water colors, a reading corner and maybe a dress up nook. Each area relates in some way to the lesson at hand..this sparks conversation that prepares for the lesson and gets them engaged in the learning process. If the children are young, then plenty of open space is left for music and movement - getting those wiggly bodies some relief from quiet activities.
   Carpet on the floor and paint on the walls really don't matter when it comes to welcoming a learning environment. I prefer a simple room that allows me the freedom to tote things in and change the objects as the need calls for it. It warms my heart when a little one enters the classroom asking 'what's in the box today'.. they know me..and know we are going to learn, grow, and engage our hearts. There in I know I have made the room work for me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

As of Today..

   As of today I walked across the extension property after a long lecture on plant fungi to enjoy lunch with my fellow students. We nibbled and discussed methods for tolerating information overload...my phone was buzzed... home..she's out of class and home before me. From a quick lunch to a tour of the gardens we will intern...the day was bright and beautiful..perfect for such a walk...but my phone kept buzzing. My principle is generally to check it when not in class or engaged in conversation, but it just wouldn't stop going off. A quick glance....
   As of today my body froze in place, horrified at the news...there is a shooting at the college..where are the girls? The college, what time was it? Home, right? The are home..I think. God be there..be right there...
   As of today:
             students stood in horror at the sound of gunshots outside their classrooms
        parents panicked as messages flooded their phones
                responders held the hands of the wounded and comforted those in fear
     a mother received a message that stopped her heart and drove her to her knees
                        ...as of today, by God's grace, my students were not there
    As of today news later came to me the shooting was not at the campus my teens attend, but they had friends who were involved in the lock down..who were also safe. News media question student's safety and applaud the push to disarm the nation. My family grieves the downfall of humanity as victims are lost amid sensationalism and political garbage.
    As of today:
                as a family we do not support the disarming of American citizens
           nor do we condone the media frenzy created from such grievous events
                      we are blessed to have responders who stand in the line of fire to protect and serve
        prayer for those wounded and their families is where our focus should be
                        ...and as of today, it is only by God's divine hand my family was not directly a part of it
   
    No matter the reason or the motive for today's shooting..it is a tragic and devastating situation that should be taken seriously and not be neglected or glamorized.

     As of today it will be hard to see them drive out of the gate to their classes..but it will be much harder for others. My prayers go out to those afraid, those wounded, and those who's wounds are reopened at such news.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Of Compost-y Things

   Weather in the 70's has my family mending fences, seeding pasture grounds and raking a lot of leaves. In general, I prefer to leave the leaves where they fall to allow nature to take its course. When working seed in a pasture some of those leaves are gathered up for another purpose: the compost heap.
   Some gardeners have beautiful compost barrels or bins; tidy and aesthetic to the eye. They follow careful formulas with ratios to ensure optimum heat for breakdown. I have found, among serious gardeners compost is gold and their system may be a well treasured secret. I am not that kind of gardener.
   Me, I work the heap plan. Mounds of mulchy-mucky microbial goodness working its wonders for the spring planting. Anything and almost everything go into my composts, from barn gleanings to eggs shells with plenty of coop shavings and some wood chips. When a heap gets to that 'almost not manageable size I move over for a new one. My best kept secret? Chickens..best composters in the world.
   Turning my hens loose for a nice turn in the heap ensures the pile gets worked and the unwanted stuff is removed. Those wonderful ladies get down to business scratching and pecking the hearty goods searching out seeds, bugs and kitchen bits while leaving beneficial manure behind. The heap is aerated and broken down to reasonable size (those leaves are now shredded!). This accelerates decomp and gets the job done faster than if I had simply turned it myself.
   No matter your method or the aesthetics of your operation the important thing is that you do it. Home compost is easy and much more cost effective than purchasing bagfuls from the local yards. Join me, won't you, in the quest for success...churn some muck and grow wonderful things this spring. Planting season will be here before you know it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

In The Matter of Thimbles

   When I sit down in my favorite place for a time of quiet stitching, nothing seems quite as familiar as my thimble. My thimble shares my journey through the stitches and styles that form the quilt. Together we write a memory and draft a treasure. Hours and hours we spend together..and with all that time logged we better be a good fit. Many thimbles have found my fingers but few have stayed to weather the tasks. Let's open the old wooden sewing box and take a peek at the thimbles that share creative space with me.
 

Join me in the sewing room to peek at the thimbles in my sewing box.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sunday





   Baptism is an important part of our faith..understanding it is very important, as is the realization that our Savior, Himself, was obedient in baptism. The tote bags are packed with flannel graphs and fun things for tomorrow's lesson with the children.


Matthew 3

King James Version (KJV)
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Now We Sprout

 
   I have an affinity for little seeds..growing things just seems to be my nature. One excellent way to satisfy that urge is sprouts. Simple, tasty and quite easy to manage sprouts take very little time and care. We also love the fact that results are quick!
   Now on to the"'Where To". I purchase sprouts mixes from online sources like Territorial Seed or from my local health food store such as Herbal Connection. Variety seems endless..from zesty mixes, protein power mix, sunflower and alfalfa to the traditional mung bean. We have also purchased simpler seeds such as broccoli or radish sprouting seeds which offer plenty of flavor and plenty of sprout.
  The other "Where To". Location. I personally sprout seeds right on the counter next to the sink. Natural filtered light is not over powering and it keeps them conveniently located near water for regular rinsing. Once sprouts have reached the desired length I just pop them in the fridge and use them up. They don't last long here, which is good since they are very perishable.
   Now "How To". A one quart mason jar, a square of cheese cloth or natural muslin and a canning ring is how I started. Fabric allows air flow while restricting pests and the ring keeps things in place. Just recently I found a nifty little lid for sprouting at my herb shop.

   This one piece lid has ventilation mesh and fits a standard large mouth canning jar. Being plastic it is easy to wash; dishwasher safe..well, quite convenient. I have seen it for sale at online seed sprouting companies, but mine was purchased at a local shop.
   Now "The Process". I start with a clean jar and top (lid or cloth and ring), seeds and water. For large seeds, like the ones in the picture, I go one part seeds (approximately 1/4 cup)  four parts water. This sets overnight then gets drained and rinsed well the next morning. From here I rinse my seeds three times a day (especially if large seeds and bean seeds). After a couple days the seeds split and form the sprout. From here it's up to you how long to let them go, just be sure to rinse well. Smaller seeds (such as broccoli) I use one tablespoon and 1/4 cup water soaked overnight then continue the process.
   Sprouts store well in the fridge for a week or so. We do rinse ours daily to keep bacteria and mold growth at bay. I eat mine on salads, in sandwiches, atop stir fries and in smoothies.

   If you are a sprouter, what do you sprout and how do you eat them?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Working Toward a Week's End

   Another week of classes down in history...one more week closer to completing my course. The change in routine has been a challenge, but this week was much easier than last..to my relief. Soil microbes, fertilizer and pesticide uses and organic gardening methods were the hot topics we dipped our toes in. My mind is on information overload..don't know how I will ever process all this information.
    At week ending we suffered an attack on the herd. Very little evidence left behind makes it quite difficult to determine the culprit. We are reviewing fences, housing and safety measures to prevent future incidents. Unfortunately, predators are part of life and this sort of thing not only happened, but will most likely happen again at one point or another.
    Preparations are under way for some future projects: Prairie Tots are coming together, two more Prairie Dolls are ready to list, two mini quilts are on the table. I have some outlines scribbled out for hand quilting posts as well as more serving topics.
    All this busy work has left me worn out and ready for a hearty day of rest. That said, I invite you to join Simply Jenn on her websight for some tasty treats and beautiful handwork. Hop on over to Simply Jenn for a glimpse at my daughter's new and improved inspirational blog.
   

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Hand Quilting Journey

   Long arm quilting, machine quilting- these are the trends of today. Many quilters and consumers firmly stand by the machine movement..they have their reasons. Some say the machine work is much stronger and gives durability and long life to their projects. Others believe it is faster and more efficient making hand made quilts more available to the consumer. Me? Well. Machine work is fine and I am working through a class to improve my machine quilting skills, but it isn't my favorite method. I have my reasons.
   Years ago when I started my quilting journey my heart longed to connect with the women of my past..those strong, sturdy women who's creativity and love of family was translated to and preserved in their beautiful hand made quilts. My heart yearned for the same lack of idleness..the same flowing creativity to preserve and pass on to my friends, family and loved ones.
    My journey began with small simple 'sandwiches' printed with random designs..a Noah's ark, for example. Hoop and needle, thimble and tread became my 'down time' friend. On a bench by the playground or the table during lessons..even while my husband and I watched the news my hands worked busily at this new task giving purpose to my time and a pace to my whirling thoughts.
     I started with the basics: hand positions, the rocking motion. My stitches were long and wide spaced, but as each little project came to completion my technique became second nature..like breathing. From the motions to the meanderings my next focus was stitch length. Careful to concentrate my attention to loading the needle with tight concise stitches with as little spacing as possible. Piece by piece it came to be  more consistent and routine. The familiar rhythm brought relaxation and contentment.
     Several years of simply stitching random fabric sandwiches were the basis for my work. I bought cheater cloths preprinted with designs and taught my children the skill of hand quilting. We made several and gave them as gifts to loved ones and friends. It wasn't until much later..only about five years ago that I found my way to actually piecing quilt tops. That journey took much the same path..simple and slow gradually finding my way to more complicated designs.

     The urging of my husband and a few dear friends gave me the courage to take my work online, creating a shop stocked with hand made things...all representative of my love for those skills so quickly fading in our hurried world. Every so often I still question that decision..hand quilting is not in high demand it seems.
     Admittedly, I do list machine quilted items..I am even taking a class to improve my skills. Why? I can. The reality is, I love to learn and explore new things. Will my shop change? No, because my passion lies in hand quilting...that will not change. It is a journey I have enjoyed traveled and will continue to connect with as the years press on.

     Have you dabbled in the hand quilting journey? Would you like to? Currently I am pondering a series of tutorials and possibly videos to teach the beautiful art of hand quilting. Let me know if you are interested in working a project with me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Simply Serving: What Do I Teach?

   I love a good story..even more so if it is a true one. Guess what..children do too. There is a growing concern in my heart over the mindset that children cannot handle stories from the Bible, but instead need cartoon edited, watered down happy thoughts. They don't. I have never seen benefit or purpose in using such 'curriculum'...therefore I do not intend to. So, instead of the 'popular trend' what do I teach?
   Since the beginning of my journey of serving through teaching it has been my practice and passion to teach the Bible..as it is in its true form..line upon line, precept upon precept as it is written. Period. From creation to crucifixion to His glorious revelation the Bible itself is filled with amazing stories, truths, and instructions little ears need to hear and know. Can they handle it? Yes.
    When I prepare for a lesson my first step is to read it. I read my text as soon as I know it is my task then I read it again and again over the days until I teach it. Familiarity with a passage lends me freedom to engage my group with eye contact and interaction..it frees me from being 'tied to the page'.
     Once the passage starts to become familiar I ponder the setting, the historical surroundings and happenings..get in touch with the background of the timeline. These things are important and very interesting, not only to me, but to the children. Example, when discussing the fact that Jesus grew, the children were fascinated to hear what a house from that time would have looked like..the furniture, the kitchen.
     My next focus of preparation is application..what does this mean for me today? Everything in the Bible is given to us to glean from and apply...and the earlier we are introduced to this concept the better. We learn that Jesus grew and learned and served..those are lessons and examples to guide our own growth and behavior.
     As my day draws near to teach, I seriously consider my audience..the personalities and behaviors of the age group. Here is where I start to consider objects and activities to engage their eyes, ears, hands and even their wiggly little bodies. Action, play and repetition are keys to learning..why not apply them here?
     I firmly believe that I need to know it before I teach it..so I do place a lot of time and emphasis on searching out the Word. This happens long before Saturday night...but, what about those days when the phone rings right before bed..a teacher needs a sub. No problem. I have been teaching and learning for many years. Since I am teaching straight from God's Word there is no worry over what I need or passing along curriculum. As for activities..and entire shelf of my sewing room is set aside for teaching items. Things I use and have used over the years reside here for my gathering. Any child I have ever taught will tell you ..she has boxes. Guess what's in those boxes..lots of wonderful things to help guild our learning and our remembering.
      This is my heart. This is where God has burdened and grown me. No greater joy- aside from teaching my own children- has ever been found in me than sharing with others. Oddly enough, even when I teach adults I use the same format..same layout..the objects and activities are just different. I am ever so grateful for the opportunities He has given..and for the opportunity to share it with you.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Winter Garden List


   Yesterday the goats and I worked on the garden gleaning the last remnants of good growing things. A few cabbage and carrots were all that remained..it's time to shift the fall garden list which is primarily growing and maintaining to the winter list.
   The winter garden slows to a crawl as temperatures dip and rain finds its way into our soil. Ground covers spend time replenishing nutrients while preventing erosion with a lush carpet of green beauty. While the winter garden is a slower paced garden, it still takes plenty of time and planning before the next season comes.
   

    My Winter Garden List

   1. Compost. This is a year round task..winter is no exception. New compost sections are under way with gleanings from barn, coop, and field. Strip composts are done between cover crops with manure and shavings  
   2. Turn out. I take the time to turn out my herds and flocks during the winter. Their pastures are often rather bare and in need of rest so the garden offers a nice place to snack in the afternoon sunlight. Weeds are eaten down, manure is added, and chickens cultivate while removing unwanted pests and seeds. 
   3. Soil. Healthy soil means healthy plants so consider the needs of your soil..how did the plants do where they were last season. The Redeemed Gardener has a wonderful series going on soil. Click the link to view his post.
   4. Greenhouse. Micro-greens, winter greens, and herbs all have a home in the winter greenhouse. Here they get just the warmth they need for some excellent home grown nutrients. Also, counter top growing..I have a jar of sprouts working on the kitchen counter..that's gardening, right?
   5. Plan. Garden catalogs start to arrive stirring the planting juices. I take pen in hand to work a plan and create a list. Winter offers a slow pace for really considering plant needs and inter-planting/companion planting buddies. 
  
   So with visions of spring dancing in my head and regular trips to the greenhouse for a sprig of mint or a bowl of chard I plod through the wet cold to ponder and prepare. Spring will be here before you know it!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Then There Was Soap

   Let me start with a confession- chemistry was not my strong point..ever. I am sure my attendance in Mrs. Tamborello's high school chemistry class drove her to her knees every evening..it was bad. So I find it rather funny that as an adult I dabble in soap because, for crying out loud, that is serious chemistry.
   Growing alarm over chemicals and toxins in everyday products paired with asthma (in two of my children) drove me to learn more about chemicals and toxins in the products we use every day. The transition wasn't easy and it definitely wasn't overnight but the results came as quickly as the changes were made...asthma was relieved, skin rashes cleared, migraines were milder...and that drove me forward in my quest.
   The actual process of home made soap scared me to death..after all..lye will kill you. Year after year I read and researched the process, the precautions, the methods available..and then, with great prodding from my family I tried it. From the first batch I was hooked.. basic raw ingredients ..creamy, beautiful soponification magically morphed into firm bars of gently fragrant soaps..what's not to love.
    This year, my focus is on getting back to the roots..why do I do things things I do and what drove me to start them. I make soap because I love it..it's fascinating and amazing and much easier than I ever expected. As for why I started, simple...to be simple..to get in touch with those amazing processes and skills that are rapidly being lost..and to provide simple, natural skin care for my family. My soaps never have chemicals added (aside from the lye)..the oils are natural and raw. Milks that are added came from right here in my own herd- naturally raised and loved. Any fragrance added is gentle and derived only from essential oils to keep things healthy and not overpowering. Simple..that is my goal.
    Many wonderful soap makers put out some amazing product..swirled and glazed..glittered or brightly colored. It is amazing and wonderful..but it isn't for me. There is a huge market for those products and I applaud them, but that doesn't fit with my conviction and purpose...back to the basics simplicity.
    You may or may not be interested in soap making..so purchase some from someone..it is a luxury you are sure to enjoy..but if you are considering let me just say...safety, safety, safety. Work in a well ventilated area- I use my out door kitchen area. Wear eye protection/gloves..at least when first starting out. Keep vinegar on hand with you to neutralize lye spills. Measure everything..seriously..here it definitely matters. Finally, know why you are doing this..do you want to experiment with color and fragrance? To sell it? For fun? Or, just to say you did it. Knowing why has helped me not to keep my self in check and maintain my focus.
      Let me share my first basic recipe for soap, and later, if there is an interest, I will gladly do a tutorial with step by step pictures.  This particular recipe is 'cold press' meaning the soap is not cooked to trace, it is stirred together and let work. Cold process soaps require a longer curing time to allow the lye to release and the soap to 'harden' (about three to six weeks).

Basic Cold Process Soap

Carefully measure into a 'stock pot':
12 oz canola oil
 8 oz coconut oil
 8 oz olive oil
Stir this well and set aside.
In a glass measuring cup:
8.5 oz water
Measure out in a separate cup:
3 oz lye
Carefully and slowing- in a well ventilated area- stir the lye into the water. Once the cloudy solution turns clear, stir the lye/water mixture into the oils. Herein we can stir by and until we reach trace (which takes about 3-4 hours) or we can alternate between hand stirring and stick-blender stirring to bring it to trace in under and hour. Hitting trace will lend a custard-like consistency to the mix. Fragrances, colors, or exfoliates can be added now. Pour the mixture into a prepare mold..cover and let set 24 to 48 hours..I leave it until it is cool to touch and firm. From there, remove to a protected surface and cut into bars..I simply use a knife. Set soaps on end in a well ventilated area to cure until firm..three to six weeks.

***This is a small soap batch easily molded in a lined shoe box or similar size plastic box. I line my mold with wax or parchment papers and cover them with it as well. Cake racks are used to set the cut bars on for curing. Mine set on a book shelf in the sewing room.

   Honestly, soap making can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. Ingredients can be ordered online, purchased at a local health food store, or even gathered from your own property (milk/herbs). The key to it all is your own personal satisfaction with the product...if you're not satisfied, you won't use it..and neither will anyone else. I hope you will give soap a try..it's wonderful and so much fun.

   If you would like a sample of our Simply Soaps email me at simplyscaife@yahoo.com with your address. Our soaps are available at Simply Scaife Handmade.


  
Growing Home

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sunday

   In the wake of so many precious young lives lost this week let us bend our knees in prayer seeking His comfort and grace over loved ones and friends gone too soon. This flu season has been quite devastating and it isn't over yet. Stay healthy, pray and hold your family close.


Psalm 23

King James Version (KJV)
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Working "Wilder" Style

   Today dawned with hurtful news that just broke our hearts, and after a week of change and challenge it was hard to pick myself up off the floor. After my moment of falling apart and praying in utterings only God understands...I needed some release... 'Wilder style'.
   There were rugs to beat. Have you ever just gathered all the rugs from your house and whacked the daylights out of them? Let me tell you it gets your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and lets those negative and painful emotions go.
   A good dose of mucking always gets a hearty sweat going..and we all know sweat is a cleansing experience. Two stalls, three coups and a pasture pen got a thorough raking. All those trips to dump and spread the gleanings forced me to breathe deep and absorb some much needed sunlight.
   Cleaning, scrubbing and lugging heavy poultry water fountains gave me a nice bit of lift and carry exercise. Those bad boys are heavy! For additional strategy, I had turkeys to dodge and trip over..obstacle course, I guess.
   I imagine in those days..the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder..there weren't phones and close neighbors..there weren't therapists and gyms for working out. No, it seems they solved their worries and frustrations..and got their cardio/resistance workout..from their everyday farm work. Today, I did too.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In Random Things

   Sunlight- finally..after days on end with dreary wetness and gray gloom. Needless to say everyone enjoyed soaking up the warmth and brightness of the beautiful break in our weather. Hard as it was I spent the day in class, but used every single break as an opportunity to take a brisk stroll around the buildings for some fresh air. I didn't realize how hard it would be to sit in a dark room for hours on end staring at a power point listening to lectures...let me say..it's hard.
   Another challenge this week has been sticking to my whole foods healthy habits..it seems my co-students really like to snack. So in attempt to curb this issue- which stands between me and the bathroom each and ever break time- I snatch a handful of fruit and bolt out the door into the sunshine. Therein I take a brisk stroll while checking my messages and breathing in the light...and, having discovered a backdoor to the building, avoid the snack table using an alternate route to the facilities. Packing a healthy lunch to eat outside on a bench helps, too.
   In my absence Jen and the farm boy have been keeping studies, chores, and meals under hand. While he works on his essay writing and driver's instruction, she has been clicking the needles and swishing the hook with plenty of beautiful results...blankets and hats..even a pair of little booties. It has been good to see her working her threads a bit before college studies fill her day again.
   Then, there is soap..wonderful and all natural soaps. I have made soap off and on over the years, but lately the soap bug has bit me. Let me be honest in saying my soaps are nothing fancy, but they are not meant to be..it isn't my goal. My desire is natural, healthy soaps made with natural healthy ingredients...and I love it!

   After such a long week of changed routine I am completely ready to spend my weekend mucking stalls, turning compost, and catching up on all the teen talk missed this week. It is quite fulfilling to step back and realize I survived four classes, their tests, and being away from my home stead for such long stretches. Four days of wonderful home and then I start it all over again..but only for five more weeks.





Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What's In My Sewing Room...

   Dreary grey rain kept me tucked inside today, venturing out only when necessary (seems my animals like to eat). The day found me in the sewing room working and cutting. As you can see two prairie dolls are eagerly waiting their pretty dresses, which are pressed and cut. On the bottom of this stack is a 'practice sandwich' I am using in my online free motion quilting class. Today..'wiggly lines'..or, better known as 'stippling'. Tension and speed are my focus right now..keeping my foot and hands moving in coordination- challenging.
   The first prairie tot has come together with a few kinks and glitches, but she came together none the less. I have some notes and adjustments to set in place for the next one.. already waiting for my attention. Seems a good idea to work the problems out if the little girl design before tackling the little boy tot, although I can't wait to see him sporting his hat and broad fall pants.
   Way back on the table sets three Dresden blocks I am playing with. They were started a few years back when all my kids were heavily invested in 4H..thus the white clovers on green fabric. I can not remember the original idea in my mind, therefore the blocks sit there for me to rearrange and mull over. In reality, I like the layout above..possibly using it for my free motion class section on quilting a running clover design.
  Here the blocks are spread out a bit more..not my favorite. To me, it seems the 'buds' should be closer to the full 'flower'. No hurry, there is plenty of time to run it around my mind some more.
   The crumb quilt is still on the frame and moving right along...those Baptist fans are time consuming, but working. While not my favorite quilt, it is growing on me..and my Jen; she seems to have a heart for this scrappy little ditty. We'll see how it goes..she may sneak this one into her hope chest.

   Oh, how my heart desires to go spend some more time stitching and creating...I had better not. Classes are in session again tomorrow so some reading preparation would be a real good idea. Thanks for visiting the sewing room with me..now, what's on your project table?


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Simply Serving: "Just"

   I was young..just starting to sort out my life, my faith, and where things would lead me. The church I was attending asked me to consider volunteering in their children's ministry. Concern struck me at once..I wasn't prepared..I didn't know enough..how can I share what I am not sure I understand. Let me just say, I do not recall what I was wearing or the color of the carpet..or even very much of the conversation, but there is a part of that conversation burned into my mind that haunts me to this day...it is just the nursery.
   Over the years of serving and loving my Lord, that particular phrase has reared its ugly head...it is just... God has used that conversation and that reoccurring phrase to spur me on over the years..because the reality is..to Him..nothing is just. It isn't just a nursery, or a home visit, or serving a meal. It isn't just singing, or praying, or even a hospital visit. It isn't just vacuuming a floor or scrubbing a toilet. It is something so much more.
   When I accepted that time in the nursery those many years ago it was a serious step for me and a definite time of growth. Those moments in the room with precious souls was an open door..an opportunity to share God's grace and love and abundant mercy. I was giving worn out parents time to refresh and renew..I was giving children love and affection and compassion. There were days I walked the floor with a fussy baby so that a mother could attend service and find the grace to face the afternoon. Rocking a baby and changing a diaper isn't the only purpose though.
   My heart churned with deep desire to teach and to share. During the week my mind would race with ideas and notions to share with the little ones. Plastic fruits to touch and see..learning God made these wonderful things for us and gave us the eyes to see them and hands to touch them. Little stuffed animals to talk of His creation and their relationship to us. Every week I served totes of 'stuff' came along with new items to learn with..an 'object lesson' for little minds to grasp. These efforts did not always meet with favor, but my obedience to my Lord is so much more important to me than the opinions of others.
   The nursery was only the beginning. I have cleaned the church, gone on mission/ministry trips, sang at convalescent homes and taught Bible studies. With each opportunity God has granted me, He also granted me the conviction that it is never 'just' anything...it is His divine opportunity..and it should not be wasted.
   During the past few months God has been working on my heart restoring my focus..my gift from Him..teaching. With this renewing came a deep burden to share my journey, my heart, and my process. I hope you will join me weekly as I dig deep into my 'tote bag' and pull out the tid-bits and lessons learned along the way. In addition, I invite you to share your heart as well..share your projects, ideas, and experiences..we are all in this together..and learning from each other is a wonderful gift.
  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Into Something New and a Review

   Well the secret is finally coming out- I am going back to class...Master Gardener class, that is. The decision has plagued and tormented me for years and this year I finally put my name on the list..dug into my quilt earnings and payed the dues. Today was spent in preparation for my morning departure; it has been a long while since I had to be up and out with a deadline..a long while. All this required some planning and a bit of review as to how I made this work many many years ago when I not only taught in a classroom, but was a wife/mother, and a trying to finish my degree.
    Back in my working days my family still ate a whole food and healthy way- making it work, now that was a challenge. To jump start my meal plans a whole chicken was roasted on Saturday afternoon with the bones set in a slow cooker for broth. Sunday found a roast in the pot..also with broth to spare. With meat ready to go, daily menus fell into place with basic amendments and side dishes. Another quick fix to aid with breakfast was Sunday night supper- a bread/breakfast item such as waffles or French toast would be made in bulk, packaged in to freezer portions just right for morning toaster reheats.
   With so much already prepared the occasional -whoops what's for dinner- was less frequent and generally met with omelets or such for a quick fix. We didn't allow a fast food run or a processed product for fall back- it's just too easy and unhealthy to rely on. The reality of some serious food allergies also pushed us to stick out the plan and make it work.
   A few things that made this run a bit more efficiently- I have two crock pots large in size with removable crocks for easy cleaning, standard go-to bread recipes that make several loaves at a time, and an old-faithful shopping list to keep me in line. Rarely do I vary from the familiar isles or from items I truly need. Gardening has been a real help making fresh produce and canned goods readily available.
   These days I don't have as many feet under my table, but I do need to pack a few lunches and feed a growing farm boy..so the old meal plan has made a comeback. The only real change is keeping a few days open for teen cooks to step up and take the range..or the grill..they can make a mean burger!
   Tonight, with great trepidation, I pack my tote with crisp paper and fresh pencils..mints and a bottle of water. Lists are made for my still at home student to keep on track with..meal components are readily available. Tomorrow I stretch outside my comfort zone and work some lazy brain muscles..wish me luck.

   By the way...I keep getting asked what I will do with this training once it is over (it's a six week course). My answer..what can't I do with it? When did we become a people who can no longer learn just for the sake of learning? Who knows...maybe I will teach. Only the future will tell. 
 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sometimes You Just Have to Have Ribs




   Like most of the world we are trying to get our eating habits back on tract after the heaviness of holiday gatherings, but sometimes you just have to have ribs. This Sunday was one of those times. Slathered in home canned sauce and let work in a crock pot overnight ribs tantalized our senses as we prepared for services..and lured us home afterward.

Simply Short Ribs

3 lbs ribs (I have beef short ribs here)
Barbeque sauce (I used 1 pint jar of home canned)
Worchestershire
Water
Salt
Drizzle of honey

Once rinsed an patted dry, sprinkle salt over the ribs and place in the crock pot. Generously coat with Worcestershire before pouring on barbeque sauce. Fill the jar about half way with water and add to the pot. Give them a final drizzle of honey before setting to low for a long overnight cooking.

  It just isn't proper to serve your ribs without a good batch of mashed potatoes, yet in our house there is some debate over smooth mashed verses lumpy chunks. The husband wins; six hearty potatoes cooked to fork tender and drained are given a bit of salt and pepper and a half stick of butter before making them a chunky mashed mess. Paired with some home canned green beans the meal is hot and ready.

   While this may not have been the leanest or most health conscious meal..it wasn't the worst. Everything was home grown and home butchered, made from scratch and eaten in proper proportion..so it could have been worse. 
    Now it's your turn..do you have those times when you just have to have ribs? How do you cook them?
  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sunday

   This week we share with the children the amazing realization that Jesus grew. For me it was quite a mind boggling realization that the baby in the manger was a boy in the temple and our Savior on the cross. It is so very important to understand this connection. 

 

Luke 2:40-52

 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Life and Death and a Bit of Perspective

   It comes to us all..the dark side of farmsteading..death. We raise up creatures from the time of their birth..nurture them..nurse them..watch them grow. Then, there is a time we all must face..their death. I am constantly asked how I do it..how do I raise an animal and then end its life..or watch it die. The truth lies in perspective.
   I grew up with farming grandparents..for them, crying over a cow's slaughter was unheard of and just plain ridiculous. It was their purpose; their place in the circle of things..it was just the way it was. We were not heartless to the sadness of death or the empty pasture that came on butchering days, but we faced it with the knowing the animals were raised well and died well and served their purpose. 
   My heart's desire was for my children to understand this purpose God had for life..and so, as creatures were born and raised here there were constant conversations relating to the fact it would end. Baby goats born here often move to new homes; chickens face predators..some end up in the freezer..even dogs die. In a society driven by the 'save the whales' mentality we never wanted our heart for our animals to overshadow its proper place. 
   Today I faced freezing sleet only to discover our little June didn't make it..in my heart, I was pretty sure she wouldn't..but finding her made it real..and it broke my heart. Sad news was shared with my teens..bundled under blankets..fighting illness of their own. Their response encouraged me..knowing years of workings side by side with them on this farmstead taught them well.
   So what is our perspective? It is sad..it is heartbreaking, but it wasn't one of us...or our extended family..or our dear friends. We grieve the loss, but rejoice in the gift of each other. As for butchering? The animals come to our home to live a good life..a life of love and sunshine..of attention and hearty food...and then they fulfill their purpose. 
  June was graciously laid to rest on our property as is our way. The rest of the day was filled with preparations...it is time to put some turkeys in the freezer. Tables set out...utensils prepared. It is part of the cycle of things..the way it works. For some it is the unspoken dark side of farm life...is it sad..yes, but..from my perspective..this is just how it is.


  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Reality Is...

   The reality is..we're sick. A nasty viral crud has hit our house and been joined by a secondary infection. Two doctor visits and a call to the vet left us with vaporizers, meds, and a strong need for nourishment. To bring health and comfort to my weak charges, hearty bone broth has been bubbling on the stove top..just what the doctor ordered.
    I have been asked several time how we make our broths and let me say it is ridiculously simple. Beef bones or a picked over chicken are the key players..set in a dry roasting pan and let work for an hour at 350 degrees. This gets the bones smokey and flavorful. Once done, they are placed in a stock pot or crock pot with plenty of garlic, onion, celery and carrot..a sliver of ginger root and horseradish root..one cayenne pepper..and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Left to work on its own for at least four hours and even better overnight, the minerals and nutrients meld with the tasty flavor of the vegetables for a hearty and quite nourishing treat. For added nutritional value add some carrot tops and herbs the last thirty minutes. We like thyme and parsley in bunches dropped in and let work until they are hardly recognizable.
    When it's time for soup, I strain the broth through a fine sieve or some cheese cloth. The hearty broth can be sipped as is to nourish when feverish or congested. For the hungry one in recovery, root vegetables and barley are simmered in until tender. In this week alone we have consumed three stock pots of this healthful warm comfort.
   On the in between, I have managed to steal a few moments at the design table to work a little on Prairie Tots. One tiny gal is almost ready..and has shown me a few flaws in my design. Notes were taken for next time to ease the work along. Hopefully she will be ready to see soon.

   There are also piles of flannel characters gracing my sewing tables. It's my turn to share a story with the children this week and it seems they have quite a heart for my flannel board...time to transition the box from the birth of Christ to his boyhood.
   Then there is June... the reality is..she just isn't making progress. She went from the lively goat in the picture to a frail and very weak baby and she just isn't improving. Consulting with the vet, we are working with her and some meds, but it doesn't look good. I feed her probiotics and bits of feed, holding her and soothing her.. she drinks fine, but just isn't getting going. We shall see.

   Right now, I plan to sip some warm tea myself and take some immune boosters in an attempt to stay healthy during this nasty touch of junk.