Monday, August 18, 2014

Fruit Flies NO MORE

Nothing drives me more crazy than having to deal with pests in the kitchen when I'm dealing with food.  Flies.  Ants.  Fruit flies.  I abhor their presence and become a very grumpy woman when they dare to try to take over my kitchen.  Usually, just making sure my surfaces are clean and food is put away keeps things under control but sometimes I have to step it up.

Flies, I swat.  And repeat my mantra like a broken record, "Please pull the door all the way shut!" every time a child goes in or out the back door.

Ants, I poison.  I use the liquid TERRO ant bait.  A couple drops on a piece of cardboard (placed out of reach of all children, of course) attracts and then kills them.

Fruit flies, I drown.  I've tried several other methods of trapping these little buggers in the past and this way works best hands down.  I learned this little trick from this smart lady.

Put a couple drops of dish soap in the bottom of a small glass or jar.  Pour in some apple cider vinegar (just a couple tablespoons).  Stir it around gently without sloshing it up the sides.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and a rubber band and poke a few holes in the top with a pen point.  Set in the area they are worst.  Within a couple hours, you'll see the results.  The solution needs to be replaced every couple days to keep the potency up but usually that's not necessary.  Just make sure all your bruised fruit is put in the fridge.  You don't want there to be any competition.  You want the fruit flies to take a swim not chow down.

Happy canning, lovelies!

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Monday, August 11, 2014

HONEY Harvest Tally 2014

When we came home from vacation, our Langstroth hive had a surprise for us- surplus honey!  Once crushed and strained, it was a whole gallon of honey.  I even saved some of the beautiful, pale, honey comb by placing them into some baby food jars.

Our grand total for our first harvest year of honey (beekeeping year two) was... two gallons and one and a half quarts.  Thank you, sweet bees. Pin It

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Early August 2014

The summer is flying by.

I'm thinking this month will slow down a bit.  We're done traveling.  We've all adjusted to a wonderful sleep schedule.  Having a fourth little person feels more normal and natural now that we've had more than a month to adjust.  I am even finding the energy and time to do a few canning projects I thought wouldn't happen this summer (thanks in great part to Jamey, my partner in all things).

More than ever before, I'm taking one day at a time.  I try to avoid looking ahead to the busyness of fall any more than I have to.  It may be August, but it in some ways it feels more like late November.  I have so much to be thankful for.

zucchini relish (recipe courtesy of Simply in Season

Next year we'll space the rigid fencing out a bit farther.  While we love the idea of a green bean arbor, having them this close together means picking in (and under) jungle-like conditions.  It also means lots of beans!

Back in January, a dear reader named Ann Marie contacted me.  She read that I was interested in trying my hand at pressure canning and happened to be helping clean out her grandfather's house.  She had come across his pressure canner and offered it to me.  Turned out, she is a local reader although we didn't know each other personally.  She allowed us to have it at a very generous price.  It's an All American.  So far, we've only used it for green beans and Jamey's been doing the canning.  I'm warming up to trying it myself but feel like I've been doing enough "new" this summer already:-). 

Our tomatoes are early and huge this year.  I'm not sure why my tomato projects are separating this much in the jars, though. Oh, well.  I was a bit nervous to can with Tattler Reusable Canning Lids again since it had been since last fall since I'd used them but it's been a lot less stressful than I thought (I used the word "since" three times in that last sentence).  I'm getting a 90%+ seal rate so I know there is some room to keep working on my technique but I'm very happy with the results and am so glad to not have to keep buying and tossing lids. 

 Thanks to all the rain this summer, Sam's sunflowers have been doing great.  He's not always excited about going out and cutting them but bringing in the money sure is fun.

More corn is coming! 

Honey bees enjoying a summer evening on their front porches. 

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

You Know You're Overloaded with Zucchini When...

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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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