Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pruning - painful, but with purpose

overgrown grapes
When we bought this farm we discovered new things every day. As we mowed down the high weeds we discovered a crop of scrap metal in every hedgerow, a gift to us and the recycling yard where we cashed it in. :) Piles of old windows that became garden cold frames. And to my great joy, a grape-vine, overgrown and neglected. The first year we picked a few grapes and marveled at it. The next year we picked even less, and I knew it was time I gave it more attention than I had previously. When a brush fire killed half of it, I almost gave up... but last spring, I decided I needed to figure out how to nurture this lovely thing.

budding in abundance, spring 2011
I worried that, in pruning, I'd cut off to much; give up a part I really wanted. I felt unskilled and unprepared for the process. Thanks to a handy gardening book, I had a diagram. So one day in the early spring, before the leaf buds began to burst, I went to work. Carefully removing all the dead vines, then the "sucker" vines, and soon training what was left to fill in the empty places the fire had left. I truly hoped that it would just produce what it had before the fire, to repair the damage.

I wonder if that is how I am with my Christian walk. Am I only trying to be as productive as I've always been, using my faith to repair the holes in my soul, not expecting more than to be "fixed." Not looking beyond... to what is "fruitful."

Spring 2011 - Pruned
When I was done the vine looked barren, but lovely all tied up. Trained in a way I could see room for growth. Then the hot humid summer came. And the grapes set on. And on. And on! The abundance was awesome. Instead of reeling from the pruning, the vine bore heavily; unencumbered by the extra growth, it put all it's energy into fruit. We proceeded to have our best crop ever, and put up lots of grape jellies.

The pruning I dreaded, was the salvation of the harvest. When I see God pruning an area of my life, I often focus on the loss, and rearrange my vines to cover the gap. Do I not see how He was removing the excess weight so I can focus my energy where He wants me? Laying aside the myriad of desires and dreams that are mere distractions, so I can follow the few strong branches I'm trimmed to. To bear fruit on them heavily...

Do you ever think a vine mourns the loss of branches? I would say from the celebration of fruit, that the answer is "no."

2012 Spring Buds
John 15:1-8 “I am the real vine, my Father is the vine-dresser. He removes any of my branches which are not bearing fruit and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit to increase its yield. Now, you have already been pruned by my words. You must go on growing in me and I will grow in you. For just as the branch cannot bear any fruit unless it shares the life of the vine, so you can produce nothing unless you go on growing in me. I am the vine itself, you are the branches. It is the man who shares my life and whose life I share who proves fruitful. For the plain fact is that apart from me you can do nothing at all. The man who does not share my life is like a branch that is broken off and withers away. He becomes just like the dry sticks that men pick up and use for the firewood. But if you live your life in me, and my words live in your hearts, you can ask for whatever you like and it will come true for you. This is how my Father will be glorified—in your becoming fruitful and being my disciples.
Related Posts:
2011 Garden Overview 
2011 Cucumbers
2011 Spring Garden: Lettuce, Spinach, Onions, and Peas
2011 Green Beans

Also shared at:

On In Around button
Counting my blessings:
#94 Pruning
#95 a Master Gardener who knows what's best
#96 painful experiences given purpose
#97 opportunities to be fruitful, to be found faithful
#98 abundance
#99 new spring budding, hope for future harvests
#100 new perspective
#101 a friend's new baby, and the reminder of the beautiful gift of motherhood.
#102 Him being enough, when I'm not
#103 how my cup can be dumped out, empty and bone-dry, and then over refilled to over-flowing the next moment.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chicken update - 12 days old

This chicks we ordered were hatched on April 16th, so they are 12 days old today. This week we began restricting the diet of the fryers (Cornish Rocks), so they wouldn't overeat and kill themselves. As you can see, these chicks are bred to GROW... and eat and grow they do! For comparison: here is a chick that I got from the feed store that is exactly one week younger.

12 days old on the left, 5 days old on the right!
The chicks are feathering out pretty well, and soon the Cornish will be able to venture out of the brooder to the area of the barn that will be their home, which will be about right for the laying hens (20 weeks to maturity, compared to the 8 weeks to maturity for the Cornish), to move to the brooder, as they outgrow their basement play-pen. :)

We think we have identified our mixed lot of laying hens as: Dominiques, Black Stars, Rhode Is. Reds, Buffs, and a single Leghorn. We'll see how right we are as they grow. :)

Laying hens
Related posts:

#82 School year done
#83 Bowling fun
#84 only lost 2 chicks out of 140!
#85 getting a few new chicks at the feed store
#86 finding devotional encouragement after feeling SO strained and drained
#87 the blessing of being home with my children (my favorite people)
#88 freedom from my allergies, a gift from God!
#89 rain
#90 cool breezes
#91 planting cucumbers
#92 free kindle books
#93 kids who read, and read, and read!

Friday, April 27, 2012

School endings and beginnings

Yesterday was our last day of the 2011-2012 School Year!
Our school assignment charts paid off and the kids snowballed their assignments as we got closer to the end, so we actually finished a few days early. To celebrate, very soon we are going to take them out to Pizza Hut to use their Book-It coupons, and a "class" bowling party. (i.e. our whole family) :)

Homeschool Posts:
Awana, our home-school Bible curriculum
School Assignments
Fastnacht Day - our Donut experiment
Homeschool Working Lunch (just for fun, photo post)
Daddy Dates
Literacy Awareness and Dr. Seuss's Birthday 


With the school year wrapping up, I am excited to start thinking about the 4-H fun we will have this summer, and begin collecting my curriculum for this fall. Since the state requires my paperwork be in by mid-July, I realize that getting started at the end of the school year is the best time to organize, especially since what does or does not work is still fresh in my mind. 

I've come to the conclusion that my switch to Spectrum Spelling was a good move. I'm also needing to find a new science curriculum. Saxon Math (for Tyler in 4th) was no match for Modern Curriculum Press (for Emma in 3rd). I believe Emma is now more advanced in her math than Tyler, which is crazy since he's always been easier with that subject. So much for my belief that Saxon is ALWAYS the best. Although, I do love their Algebra.

In my quest for more curriculum, I held an Usborne Book Party, and am SO glad I did. It paid off very well and I was able to get all of these books for only about $85 (mostly that was the sales-tax and shipping, since many of them were free!) I highly recommend Angela, even though she didn't live near me, she gave my party super support and it was a total success. Give her a call (or a fb message)!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sweet and Saltines

There are a few magazines I like. Hobby Farms, Taste of Home, and Country Living are three of them. In the April 2010 issue of Country Living, there was a recipe from Trisha Yearwood's Family Recipes collection (from her new cookbook) called "Mama's Sweet and Saltines." I made it right away and our family was hooked. It is super yummy and, of course, I've made my own tweaks...

40 Saltine crackers
1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup light-brown sugar
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven at 425 degrees. Line a large rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil and saltine crackers.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar together and bring to a boil.

Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over crackers, covering them evenly.

Put cookie sheet into oven and watch closely. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until just bubbly.

Remove from oven and pour chocolate chips over crackers. When chips begin to melt, spread them over crackers with a knife.

Transfer pan to freezer for about 20 minutes, or until completely cooled. (this is important or it won't come off of the foil) The chocolate-covered crackers will form a solid sheet. Break into pieces and store in airtight container.

Related Posts:

Two Chili Recipes (scroll to end of post)
Linked up at:
The Chicken Chick!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Grief and Great Love

This weekend was a funeral for a young man, taken too soon. I did not know him personally, but I did know his mother. It was amazing to be there to witness in the first person, the Body of Christ, pouring out love on the family that had lost. There was a need for food for the luncheon, and there was worry about the large number of mourners. Would there be enough? The call went out, and the messages came in... a fruit tray from a young mother, a plate of cookies from an elderly woman, strangers and friends, more and more... Soon the church kitchen was loaded down, refrigerators overflowing, counter-tops covered.

In the sanctuary a enormous number of young people shared and cried, and were comforted by the Word.

1 Thes. 4:13-14;18
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus... so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."
And in the kitchen, the food was being set out, and the women were praying. Praying for comfort and peace, praying for understanding, praying for the presence of the Lord to descend upon hearts crying out to Him. Looking on, all I could think was, this is the Body. We minister to one another with food, with a silent hug, with the Word, with prayers of supplication, and of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving for the young souls that heard the Word there, and responded to the call of Salvation.

1 Thes. 5:9-11 "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing."
When we lost our baby, still in the womb, 7 years ago... I remember the grief, so overwhelming, and the desire to have my child in my arms. Crying out to God to give back what was lost. It was then I realized how great his love for me. He had lost a Son too. But it was willingly, with an open hand, not the tightly clenched fingers that I had. Willingly He gave His life for mine, a ransom. How great a love is this?

Rom 5:6-8 "And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men. In human experience it is a rare thing for one man to give his life for another, even if the latter be a good man, though there have been a few who have had the courage to do it. Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us."

How Deep The Father's Love For Us

Stuart Townend

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Thank you Ann, for this verse, that fit so well with my thoughts today: 
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” ~ Romans 8:17

Giving thanks, and counting:
#73 new babies born today
#74 God's sovereign plans
#75 beautiful weather
#76 smell of lovely blossoms
#77 snuggles from a little boy
#78 gifts from a neighbor
#79 singing off key with the kids
#80 hubby able to work so hard for us
#81 hand-me-downs (or as Mayda says "handy-downs")

Sunday, April 22, 2012

photo needs a caption...

This chicken pic gives me the giggles, but it needs a caption. Got one?

...and while I am preoccupied with baby chicks, see what my big girls were doing to my flower beds:

digging and dust baths

grrr.... lol.

Related Posts:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Counting my Blessings

This year I am attempting to live a more grateful life. Attempting is the right word, because I know by default my heart is desperately wicked, selfish even, by nature. I want others to be impressed by me, to be drawn to my life, to care about MY needs... See how self centered? So easy to be that way... but when I am still and view myself as God does, the grace that fills my soul, the wretch that I know I am in comparison to such glory. I say that, not to be self deprecating, but in a voice of awe, that He wanted me. Redeemed me. Forgives my daily stumbles. Blesses me even. So with His help I want to look at life with new perspective. Living fully where I am. Noticing the blessings, seeing the opportunities to glorify Him. Bear with me, as I strive, in my simple-minded way, to recognize each gift I have been given... and to share them.

first tooth out! #55

rhubarb #56

my silly guineas #57-58

potatoes sprouting #59

chokecherry blossoms didn't freeze #60
currants blooming #61

hubby home today
beautiful weather
grace that is greater
church family gathering to love on those who have lost
the incredible compassion of our elder church members
moms joining around a grieving mother
daisies on my table
naptime snuggles
sisterly conversation
reminders all around 
daily audio Bible

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2012 Chicks are here!

This morning at 6:15 I called the postoffice, and they were unloading our chicks from the mail truck right then!

So the kids threw on their clothes, and by 7:20 we were back from town with all of our sweet babies!

yes, they've been in there nearly all day

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tomatoes 2011 - Mostly Roma, Salsa!

Last year we pretty much only planted roma tomatoes, as I didn't have time to trellis them. They produced very well, and I made a LOT of salsa. I LOVE roma tomatoes because they are compact, but high yielding, as well as very easy to blanch and peel.

romas, interplanted with onions and carrots

As I sadly retrieved the last 3 jars of salsa from the basement, I pray they will last until this summer's crop... but not likely. :) Here's my favorite salsa mix.

zucchini - tomato salsa
Related Posts:
2011 Garden Overview 
2011 Cucumbers
2011 Spring Garden: Lettuce, Spinach, Onions, and Peas
2011 Green Beans

Today I'm thankful for #50-54
Mild weather predicted for the next week
sprouting grass
sprouting spinach
Wyatt sleeping all night
waking up early

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cucumbers 2011 - trellising experiments

Last year's cucumbers were very prolific, as we tried a couple of different trellising experiments. I'm certain a good bit of the success was the hot and wet weather we had. The vines were established early and produced from July to September. We trained them up a fence and inter-planted them with carrots and sunflowers. The sunflowers shaded the cucumber's roots, and the sunflowers really benefited from the anchoring that the cucumber vine gave to them.

The second way we trellised them was to let them climb a circle of fence. I found they "wandered" off of this trellis often and it wasn't very successful. Also the cukes were hard to harvest, hiding deep in the coil or prickly vines.

This year we will be planting them in an alternating pattern of 3x3 patches within my raised beds, alternating with the lettuces, training them up a screen "tent" over the lettuce. Pictures to come... Here's where that is going in:

Then we can make lots of Bread and Butter Pickles!

Related posts:

Today I'm thankful for #45-49
lovely weather
talking with my dad on the phone
making a new friend
lunch and coffee
a God who loves me, messes and all


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