Wednesday, July 23, 2014

And Everything Shifts

I am torn between wanting to share out loud (this here feels pretty loud to me) and sticking to my safe spiral notebook.  I want others to know what fostering feels like but this is all so new and still very raw. Someone had their child taken away (or lost their right to parent for the time being, depending on your angle).  And then they gave that child to us.  My emotions run the gamut but are quickly gathered and sequestered.  There are four children to care for as well as a husband.  Managing all the feelings may be the biggest challenge of it all. Snippets from the past month....

Within the span of three hours (from call to pick up), everything changed.

For an indeterminate amount of time, we are a family of six instead of a family of five.

For four days, sleep eluded half of us as we slowly (three weeks slow) and softly fell into new patterns.

Our children are amazing.  They've opened their hearts and affections and have become his favorite toys to play with.  They have their own feelings (mostly good).  We talk about them often.

My ever-so-long summer to do list has flown out the window.  And I couldn't care less.

This has been one of the hardest and most rewarding weeks of my life.  We are doing it.

For reasons I cannot share here, I now know why we had to wait for our first placement.

He has stolen our hearts.  They are his to take- both now and again when he leaves us.

Trust and obey.  There is no other way. Pin It

Monday, July 7, 2014

Early July 2014

We're slowly turning over our sunflower business to Sam.  This year, he has done the planting (with some guidance from Jamey) and will be doing the bulk of cutting and selling.  If you're local, keep an eye out. They'll be for sale soon.

An early summer project that has been temporarily halted- painting the barns with an opaque stain to protect them (and it's improved their appearance, too).

New Zealand spinach down front with lettuce gone to seed in the back.  This spring we didn't need to plant lettuce- it reseeded itself beautifully and we had more lettuce than when we plant by seed ourselves.

We chose a pole bean variety this year and planted it at the base of some cattle fencing.  It quickly grew to the top so Jamey opened some old tomato cages and placed them above to let the beans grow up and around.  I think it's beautiful.

Sweet potato mounds....

Peppers, watermelon and zucchini....

Corn in the fence (and out of the fence) at different stages....



The back garden with potatoes up front (some have been dug and roasted) and more corn....

Volunteer flowers....

One of my little loves picking wild black raspberries....

Ah, the bees...busy at work.

We're up to five colonies right now.  The smallest (the nuc- far left) houses a small colony with a back-up queen.

More honey harvest- 6 quarts and 1 pint total for this summer.  We don't expect to take more and are thrilled with what we were able to get.

I'm not sure how much canning will take place in our house this summer.  We'll likely manage some.  Instead of jars and canners, my counters are full of a different kind of supply.  Praise Jesus for bottled baby food. And family.  And friends.  And church support.  And an amazing husband and amazing children.

Thy hand has, indeed, provided.
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Friday, June 27, 2014

Some News

Hi, friends.

It may be a little while until I'm able to blog again.  A very sweet foster baby boy is rocking our world at the moment.  If you're a pray-er, I covet your prayers as he, his family and we make this huge transition.

In the meantime, here are some garden pictures on Mavis' website that I sent her last week.  Once things fall into a more normal pattern here, I'll post more.


P.S.  Hug your people tight today.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fed by Books

I don't read much for myself these days unless I'm on vacation or unless I'm studying up on something like bees.  I keep an eye out for books I'd like to read and save them up for when we go away.  Our two favorite vacation spots have no television and we love living with no TV while we're there.  At home, we have no TV reception and no cable but the kids do watch videos and Jamey and I stream Netflix.  We love being away from TV so much so that we're considering a family no-TV/movies-during-the-month-of-July stint. Maybe July will feel like a vacation.  But probably not quite.

Anyway.  Two of the books I took along last week were from blog authors I read.  The first was Glennon Melton's Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life and the second Herrick Kimball's Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian: One Man's Ruminations About Faith, Family, and Livin' The Good Life.  Both books are a series of essays/blog posts-turned-chapters.  This made it easy to jump from one book to the other and allowed for interruptions without making me lose reading momentum.

The two books (and the two authors) are very different but they both fed something in me that needed feeding.  Glennon's book helped me feel normal because I'm kind of weird sometimes.  And Glennon is weird a lot of the time (I think she'd agree).  She made me feel as if weird can be normal.  It is normal, right? At the same time, it was a reminder of how everyones' backgrounds/stories are so different and yet we all need to feel loved and appreciated.  And we need to find our niche in making this world a better place.  I appreciate the way she reaches out to others and this encouraged my perpetual desire to reach out.  It gave me confirmation that even if our lives are a little (or a lot) messy, we can be there for others.

Herrick's book was balm for our souls. Jamey read large portions of it and my father even picked it up as well.  His essays were taken from his first year of blogging.  Our garden and lifestyle is very rewarding but it can easily become overwhelming at times-especially when one of us has a full-time job away from home and the other a full time position at home (homeschooling/childcare/managing things).  Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian reminded us of the reasons for our choices and encouraged us in them.  We would have never called ourselves Christian Agrarians (we weren't familiar with the term) but according to Herrick's definition, that's what we are.  We came home with a new, restored outlook on our life and projects. Reading that was just what we both needed.

I came home feeling like I had really gotten to know two acquaintances.  And I appreciate these two very different and very lovely people very much. I had other books I could have taken along but I think the good Lord knew what I needed and when.

Its nice when going away is more than a break- when it becomes something that helps prepare you (and even gets you excited) for going back.

So here I am back at home, embracing my weird while embracing my lifestyle choices.  Look. Out. :-)

P.S. Neither Glennon nor Herrick knew I was going to write about their books.  If you would like to read their online writings, see Momastery and The Deliberate Agrarian. Pin It

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Work and Joy of Going Away

Last week we went away to this place for five whole days.

It's a bit of work for us to pick up and go anywhere.  We arrange for animal care, try to get the garden in order, mow the lawn and even clean the house (I can't stand coming home to a dirty house). Then there's the packing and all the food.  We tend to take all our own food when we go on vacation. Usually it's a necessity- there are no restaurants or grocery stores near where we stay and if there are we choose not to spend the money.  I don't like cooking on vacation, so I pre-make everything- stockpiling casseroles in the freezer so the meals are easy to just pop in the oven when we get there.

All this to say, it's quite a lot of preparation.  Then, I get there and unpack and don't know quite what to do with myself.  It's a good but unsettling feeling.  At home there is always something I either should be doing or could be doing work-wise.  There's laundry, cleaning, weeding, meal planning, bill-paying, blogging, etc.  On vacation...those things don't exist.

By day two, I've found my groove. I relax and respond to my children in the way I wish I would/could at home because I'm totally available.  I read books (more on what I read soon), do puzzles (my brain gets squishy at home), sit outside in the sun, watch my kids (and husband) play in the creek and stare into the campfire.  We take hikes, go for picnic lunches and play Dutch Blitz until late in the night.  Then, we all climb the stairs and sleep in the same room together.

That same room thing can be a little tricky. When our kids were little I was always paranoid that the older ones would wake up the younger.  Now that they're all older (5, 8 and 11) falling asleep all together is possible after everyone settles down and stops talking and/or fussing.  The first night we ended up scolding and yelling a bit to get them finally settled.  The second night I decided to try to sing them a lullaby instead. My mother sang it to me as a baby and I sang it to my babies, too.

Hush-a-bye and goodnight,
Go to sleep, sweet __________.
Hush-a-bye and goodnight,
Go to sleep for me.
Hush-a-bye and goodnight,
Go to sleep, sweet __________.
Hush-a-bye and goodnight,
Go to sleep for me.

You get the idea- simple, a tad boring- the perfect lullaby.  So I sang it to each child and then I sang it to Jamey, too (so he wouldn't feel left out).  Then to my surprise, Jamey started singing and my three kids' little voices joined his in the dark to sing the lullaby to me.

And of course, I cried.

We sang to each other each night after and each night everyone quieted down.  We've started a new vacation tradition quite by accident.

One more thought about vacations.  If you go away to a place like a cabin where you have to rough it, it makes you appreciate coming home to all the comforts (like electricity and running hot water).  It makes home look even nicer than usual.  It helps breed contentment and appreciation for what you have instead of feeding desires for more this or nicer that.

It's so good to get away and it's so very good to be home.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

The How

It's been awhile since I've come right out and talked about Living Simply In Order to Give.  The changing seasons make me think of fresh starts so I thought I'd put together some of the ways we try to achieve more simple living for the purpose of giving.

Before I jump in, I want to recognize that some of you may feel as if you have nothing to give.  You may be strapped for cash and barely able to make your own ends meet.  Or, you might be emotionally drained dry- unable to reach out because you need to be reached out to.  If you find yourself in either (or both) categories, it is my prayer that someone will give you whatever kind of support you need.  And I also pray that God will extend His mighty hand and bring you healing and hope.

It is for these folks that we cut corners and make do.  If you are living with bounty of any kind, I want to strongly encourage and challenge you to look outside of yourself and your immediate family and touch someone who needs to know they are cared for.  These needs lie across the street as well as across the globe.  May God connect your heart to those He knows need the gift of your unique self and your resources.

I recently put a link at the top of my side bar.  If your heart aches for the plight of women and girls in Southeast Asia, I strongly recommend you follow the link for concrete ways you can help.

Okay, here we go!

1) Don't shop!  It may seem obvious, but one of the easiest ways to part with your money is wandering around stores and looking through catalogs.  You come away with things you didn't know you needed (you don't need them!) just minutes before.  Stick to your list, don't browse and put those catalogs directly into your recycle bin or use Catalog Choice to control what comes to your mailbox.

2) Put those things you want right now on your birthday, Christmas or general wish list.  If you're using the latter, make yourself wait a week or two before buying it.  Most of the time, I change my mind by then.  We use this technique with our kids and it's an important habit for adults to consider, too.

3) Used items should not be thrown away!  Donate it or, if it's a rather expensive item, consider taking it to a consignment shop.  It might mean an extra trip to take it and collect your money, but it's money you can pass along that you didn't have before.  Of course, donating it is giving, too, but if you have a special cause you wish to give to, this can free up extra cash.

4) Cut out extras!  I might make a few of you squirm here, but do you really need cable?  Really?  Do you need the phone plan you have or could you make do with less minutes and less texting?  Instead of going to the movies, subscribe to Netflix and watch it in a couple months for much less.  YOU get to decide what extras you need, don't let society, your friends or your kids' friends decide that for you.

5) Use it until it is truly unusable.  I know the temptation is to replace something as soon as it starts to look less than desirable, but really.  Stop and think.  Could you make do?  If so, make do and free up that money for someone else who needs food or clothing.

6) Plan your meals.  I know it's not glamorous, but chances are if you have the ingredients and an idea for dinner, you're less likely to be tempted to go out to eat where you'll spend much more.  Save restaurant trips for special occasions only.

7) While we're talking about food, grow some!  Even if you don't put in a huge garden and an orchard, seeds are way cheaper than fresh, organic produce.  Every little bit helps.

8) If you use the internet (I know you do), let it earn you money!  Sites like Swagbucks and Ebates earn you gift cards that can off set your expenses for searching and shopping you do anyway.  Take advantage of this free money!

9) If you have an abundance of produce or flowers each summer, give them away or sell them.  While they do make for lovely compost, they can also help feed people or raise funds to help in other ways.

10) When you do need to shop, thrift shop!  My go-to place for clothes is our town's Goodwill.  They have a huge selection and I have much better luck finding what I want because the brands and styles vary so much. I also use thrift stores to find items not found in the hand-me-downs we receive.

11) Find a family with kids slightly younger than yours and pass along kids clothes that still have life in them. There are two families that give us clothes and I hope they know how much money this has saved us and allowed us to pass on to others (and we pass the clothes along as well!)  They've blessed us so we can bless others.

12) Feel like re-decorating or sprucing up the place?  Paint!  Wall color is easy to change, inexpensive and gives the whole room a new look without forking over hundreds or thousands of dollars for new furniture, couch pillows and curtains. Also consider just rearranging the furniture- that might just be all the change you need :-).

13) Budget your giving if it's important to you.  That way it will be there, ready to be passed along.

The next set of suggestions has more to do with giving of yourself than of your money.  Over the past couple years I've been challenged to give more of my-actual-self.  When you're running a busy household it's easy to feel as if there isn't much left to give.  Giving of yourself can also become messy and uncomfortable- our life might be disrupted by someone else's need for time and support.  It can also be just what both you and they need to be reminded that we are created for relationship- both with our God and each other.  So, take courage (I'm talking to myself, too!) and make that phone call, stop in for a visit, invite someone out for coffee and listen, encourage, extend a helping hand and pray for them.  Here are some other ideas.

1) Make double batches of meals so that you can pull one out and take it to someone who needs it. Sometimes my heart is in the right place but when it comes to figuring out what to make and when to make it, I lose momentum.  Having something on hand makes it much easier to respond to illness, new baby, or a prompting of the Spirit.  Staying and eating with the person if they're alone can be a greater gift than the food itself.

2) Invite people into your home and don't apologize for the state of things (dust, clutter).  It will likely make them feel better!  Inviting someone into your home is the start of inviting them into your life and it shows them that they are important to you.  A meal is nice but so is some iced tea on the porch or sitting around a camp fire.

3) Visit someone. The elderly, the sick, the new-to-the-area, those who've lost their job or are going through a tough time.

4) Stop and pray.  There are times after visiting with someone that I have kicked myself.  Why didn't I stop our conversation and pray with/over them?!  Prayer is a powerful thing and it reminds us to look up for help.

5) Mentor someone.  Match your gifts to someone in need who might benefit from your skill and friendship. Contact your local Boys and Girls Club and be a light in the life of a youth who needs encouragement.  Consider hosting a Fresh Air child.  Offer free childcare to single moms who need a back up when day care isn't open so they won't lose their jobs and then open up your home to the parent as well as the child.  Young, single moms need mentors, too.

6) This last one might require a post of it's own.  Many won't agree because of what it requires but here goes...if you want to give of yourself, you have to be available- not away every night and scheduled so tightly that you'll never have opportunities to help others. Our culture relishes busy-ness and many of us say we don't like it but I don't tend to believe that. Why is it that we can't just be?  Be with each other and be with others? Just like budgeting our monetary giving, we can budget ourselves for others.  Or, we can stay on the crazy, never-ending hamster wheel that we claim to dislike. Create and then guard those empty spaces in your schedules to allow for the unknown.

7) I must mention service as well.  It comes in all forms- local and foreign missions, volunteering, foster care, adoption, etc.

There was certainly a time when we were young-marrieds who were focused on learning to live together, acquiring full time employment and paying off school debt (we're still doing some of that).  There were also the early days of parenting young ones that encompassed our whole beings.  We didn't always focus outward and we still don't always do it well but making it a way of life and spending time in prayer about how God will choose to use us has opened up opportunity after opportunity and we are in awe (and often very challenged) when God places a new person or opportunity into our lives.

I'm always on pins and needles (in a rather good way) as I wait to see what is coming next and what ways God will enable us to meet the needs presented before us.  Join us, will you? Pin It

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Firewood Post Office

We have many stacks of wood around our place.  Some are inside buildings and some are outside.  One is a play house turned post office.  Finding dual uses for things can be an awful lot of fun.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Our First Honey Harvest!

This post is dedicated to my hero and favorite beekeeper.  Without you, all of this wouldn't be nearly as much fun. xo

One of the first questions people ask us when they find out we keep honeybees is, "How much honey have you gotten?"  It's a very valid question and one that I am likely to ask anyone who has bees, too.  In addition to wanting them to pollinate our garden and fruit trees, we have bees because we love honey and we are hoping to get some.

Up until now, we've replied to this question with our little schpeal, "Well, the first year it's often better not to take honey so the colonies are sure to have enough to get them through winter so we didn't take any honey last year. We're hoping to this year but we'll have to wait and see."

After this past weekend, we're able to answer a bit differently.  We were away overnight and didn't get to the hives until Sunday evening.  We just needed to do a quick check to see if the two colonies we'd left to raise their own queens had done so (one did and one didn't).  While inside the hives, we came across three bars of pristine comb with mostly capped honey.  We felt certain that these colonies would still have plenty of stores for themselves and could easily build up stores throughout the rest of the year so we brushed them free of bees and brought them inside.

One of the huge benefits of top bar hives is that you don't need anything fancy to extract honey.  Extractors are expensive and are made for honey combs on frames of foundation. No such equipment is needed if you're a small-scale top bar beekeeper. To harvest honey in top bar combs you simply cut it from the bar and crush it, letting the honey drip through cheese cloth or a paint strainer and into a bowl or bucket. We used a clean paint strainer, my large canning pot, a glass bowl, and a couple clothespins.

 I've been battling little ants in our kitchen so Jamey created a moat for the pot to sit on so they couldn't get to the honey pot. We also used the lid to keep flies out.

We had no idea how much honey these three combs would give us.  We had never done this before.  We were delighted to discover that they gave us one and a half quarts of beautiful, local, made-by-our-bees honey.

The drained, squished comb was set back outside for the bees to lick clean before we melt it and store it for use in making fire starters.

We're excited to go back into the hives in a couple weeks to see if they might be able to spare a few more combs for us- their humble (and still-flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants) "owners". Pin It

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Flipping Farms

If there were two of me and two of Jamey I think I know what the second two of us would do.  The first two of us (the main us) would be here doing all the things we already do.  The second two of us would flip farms.

Some people flip houses.  They buy up homes that need work, fix them up and sell them.  I've always had a special spot in my heart for run down farmhouses.  When we drive by one, I yearn to stop and explore...then love and restore.  I'd probably even want to live there for awhile.  But then I (the second me, of course) would likely see another lonely, abandoned farmhouse and want to do the same thing all over again. And this is why if there were another set of us, I think we would flip farms.

This past weekend, we visited some relatives that recently moved just two hours from us.  They built a beautiful home and we had a beautiful weekend with them.  I want to respect their privacy so will just give you a taste of the beauty- this was the guest room where we stayed.

Once we were settled, Jamey and I couldn't help but be drawn to an old barn across the pasture from the back of their home.

Our hosts graciously allowed us to walk back the gravel lane behind their place and show us the old farm that currently sits empty.

The house is old and in need of work.

The yard in unkempt, overgrown and full of weeds.

The barn is exquisite.

And it sits on a large, gorgeous piece of farmland.

We were in love.

But alas, it isn't for sale.  And there is no second pair of Jamey and I to move in and love it back to health.

And so we'll just keep loving on our own little farm this summer- restoring painted floors, giving our barn a facelift, protecting other outbuildings with stain, fighting back the weeds, keeping up with the repairs, and nurturing animals and flowers and gardens.

For the empty little piece-of-heaven-farm, we wish it visionary owners who will swoop in and love it back to all its glory.

And then invite us back for another visit. Pin It
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