Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Weird (to us) Looking Gardens

Ever since we've lived here (ten years this January), we've used the no-till gardening method- using lots of straw, leaves and grass clippings to keep weeds down and moisture in.  We had several very successful years using this method.  Our gardens thrived and were a pleasure to walk around in since our shoes never got muddy!  But the past couple summers life has gotten busier and we slacked on making sure there was enough mulch put down.  When you don't lay a thick enough layer of mulch the weeds NOTICE and they take full advantage of your full schedule, lack of mulch, and they. take. over.

So this year, we decided to till and hoe.  Because of this we have strange-looking gardens because...well, of the tilling and hoeing.  This may not be weird to you, but it sure looks weird to us.


The gardens still aren't perfect.  There are still a few weeds and other garden-relating things hanging about but to us, they look rather neat and tidy...in a dirty sort of way.




The pros are that we don't have to go hunting for mulch and hoeing out small weeds is a breeze.  The cons are that moisture isn't readily available under the (nonexistent) mulch (although we've had a wet spring which has helped) and our shoes get muddy when we walk the rows after it rains.


sunflowers (which we never mulched)

It's been a welcome change of pace and our gardens look more "normal" to others.  We occasionally mulch with grass clippings as we have them but I'm still not used to our gardens' new look.  Don't get me wrong- I like it. I just have to remind myself that you can't judge a garden by its naked paths...or something like that.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gratitude

Every once in a while I happen upon a most overwhelming feeling of gratitude.  Sometimes it comes out of the blue and other times something happens that reminds me of all I have to be thankful for. This week I'm swimming in it.  I hope that in the midst of your life- whatever it looks like- you can feel a smidgen or an ocean of it, too.

I'm thankful for preteen boys who make chickens jump for sour cherries.



I'm thankful for little girls who love picking mulberries and...


...who take their job as cherry stoner very seriously.



I am thankful for the ridiculous amount of beauty that surrounds me and for those moments when I actually take the time to appreciate it.




I am thankful for the promise of things to come.  All I have to do is wait.




This week, I am even thankful for weeds.  {A true sign I'm drowning in it.}


But most of all, I am thankful for the gift of life and the family I'm entrusted to care for and be loved by.



It's almost too much. Pin It

Monday, June 15, 2015

Stripping Stairs

Remember when I stripped the paint off the floor in our upstairs hallway last spring (Part 1 and Part 2)?  Well, I had intended to do the stairs that summer, too.  Instead, a little boy came into our lives for a time and all my projects flew out the window. {By the way!!  His family and we are back in touch, we are spending time together and it is wonderful:-)}.

So here is what our stairs looked like.  The upstairs hallway and the steps were this light blue when we bought the house and have remained this lovely color (that I really have never liked very much) for the ten years we've been here.  We added the carpet runner after Sam fell down the stairs. Twice.


In the great scheme of things, they were fine.  We just really appreciate old wood flooring and wanted to expose it.  It was the last remaining painted wood flooring in the house.  So, how did it go? Well, the first day I bit off more than I could chew.  I painted stripper on the entire right hand side so I had to scrape, reapply stripper, and scrape some more the whole live-long day crouched or bent awkwardly over because there wasn't enough room for me to sit on the non-stripper-applied steps comfortably.  From 10:00 am until 4:30 pm (with two short ten-minute breaks to use the bathroom, drink and eat) I slaved over these silly steps.  I hated it.  It was an incredibly hot and humid day and a fan directly on me and the steps would have dried the stripper out too quickly.  By the end of the day my whole body ached- especially my hands.  Here's what it looked like (sorry the photo is rather dark- at that point I didn't care)....


The second day, I wised up and only did the top half of the other side of the stairs and then worked on the treads where they extended past the railing.  For this, I could at least stand on the floor which made the work feel practically effortless compared to working on the steps.  On the third day, I only had the remaining left side of the steps to finish.  Then, because my hands were like claws and my right arm was in a perpetual state of feeling half asleep, Jamey kindly scrubbed the steps with water to clean up any remaining residue.  And here's what they look like now....


I don't know if you care or not, but in order to record the depth of this project (for my own sanity), here are the layers of paint I encountered...

light blue,
a slightly different light blue,
white,
light brown,
dark brown,
greyish-bluish...
and, finally, bare wood.

Also, interestingly enough, all the steps are pine except for the second from the top which is oak.

I told Jamey that we can never sell this house because if someone ever paints back over these stairs, I may have to take them out.


As you can tell, I wasn't able to get entirely down to bare wood everywhere but thankfully I was really pleased with the results and so was Jamey (like he'd say otherwise, right? ;-))  They look like really old steps which is what they are! The project is now turned over to Jamey.  He's planning on applying a few coats of clear stain to protect and brighten them up a bit.  The painters tape will then come off and I'll lay down the new braided rug treads I snatched up over a year ago when I spotted them on sale.

The biggest and most dreaded summer project has now been checked off my list.  And for all sweat, aches and pains, it was totally worth it:-).

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Winner(s!) of The New Answers Book 1

Thanks to those who entered the giveaway at the end of my Creation Museum post!  I decided to pick three winners instead of just one!  If you see your comment listed below, please email me (thyhand123@gmail.com) your mailing address and I'll send you your book!

 

Love love love!!!!

What a fascinating museum, I'm sure your family had a lot of fun & gathered great knowledge. This is a point of interest I'll be sure to pass along for my grandkids, many thanks for sharing.

Ruth

What a wonderful trip! De and I are planning to visit the creation museum in the not-to-distant future. I think its about a 10 hour drive, so we'll likely make it a 2-nighter.


Have a great weekend, friends!

Blessings,
Jane Pin It

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Creation Museum

This giveaway is closed.  Winner(s) are announced here.


For those of you who visit me here and don't believe as we do I welcome you to read this as an account of a recent trip our family took.  I respectfully understand if don't agree and know that you, possibly the dearest blog readers in the world, will understand our desire to share without taking offense:-).

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Take a moment and think about something you find amazing.  Your cell phone?  Computer? An expensive sports car?  A satellite or space shuttle? Now think about how it works (if you can!) and imagine what it looks like inside- with all its intricacies.  I'm sure there is no doubt in your mind that there was some highly skilled inventor or designer (or series of inventors and designers) behind it. Would you believe it if someone told you that your cell phone (or that space shuttle) was not created but instead evolved over billions and billions of years out of nothing?

Okay- I'm sure you can see where I'm going but stick with me.  Now think about the human body, the oceans of the worlds, the countless species of insects and animals on this planet- all intricately designed and formed.  Now, imagine the insides of us- our brains, nervous systems, muscles, digestive systems, cells, our ability to think, reason, love and feel.  Did we (as well as all plants, animals and even our planet) evolve out of nothing or were we designed and created by someone with skills and insight beyond our imaginations?

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A couple weeks ago, we went on a road trip with my parents.  We're accustomed to traveling far by car/van to get to our destinations but never had we traveled this far for a two-night stay.  What made it worth our time and miles?  The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.


Now, if you believe the literal creation account in the Bible, as we do, this place is a dream come true.  It's the one place we've been able to explore science and creation hand in hand.  Many people think that you can believe in Creation or science but not both.  We believe the Creator of all things wants us to love and explore science because it gives us glimpses into who He is and the miraculous things He has done and will do.


If you don't believe in the Bible or a literal creation account, you still might find elements of the museum and grounds fascinating.  Especially if you live close by, check it out.  One ticket gives you access to two days at the museum so you can make sure to see and do everything. And, this year (2015), if you buy two adult tickets, two children get in free:-).


We had such a wonderful time.  We saw planetarium shows that took us all through our solar system and beyond, we walked through the creation story and the 7 C's (see below) which included real dinosaur bone displays, scientific explanations for why we live on a young earth, how world history supports Biblical accounts, and scientific rebuttals to arguments against a worldwide flood, etc.  For non-readers, there are lots of displays, video presentations and even mechanical mannequins that convey information.  Our kids loved the anticipation of what the next exhibit around the corner would hold.


We explored their beautiful gardens, enjoyed the petting zoo and even went on a camel ride (well, the kids did).  We also we able to hear Steve Ham speak.  His brother is Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, an organization that doesn't claim any denomination but walks along side the church. They are an incredible resource and we highly recommend their website and books if you're curious about any of this. Their own definition of their role is...

"Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth."  



One of my favorite parts of the whole experience was their insect display.  I took maybe 30-40 photographs of these cases which, to me, illustrate the magnificence of our Creator.  Here are just a few...








We came home with books, souvenirs, and a reclaimed excitement about our God and the Bible.  

Psalm 8:3-9

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
         The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;

What is man that You take thought of him,
         And the son of man that You care for him?

Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
         And You crown him with glory and majesty!

You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
         You have put all things under his feet,

All sheep and oxen,
         And also the beasts of the field,

The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
         Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord,
                                                                                                   How majestic is Your name in all the earth! 


Now!  If you made it to the very end of this post, I have something special for you:-).  Leave me any one (1) comment below, being sure to include your first name or initials, and on Friday I'll randomly draw a winner to whom I'll send a copy of this book.  

Blessings,
Jane

P.S.  I am sharing about The Creation Museum purely on my own accord.

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Monday, June 1, 2015

"Granola" Bars (No Bake and Gluten Free)

Two of my kids (usually) won't eat meat.  So, in an attempt to get more protein (and healthy fats) into their growing bodies, I found that many paleo and gluten free recipes use a lot of nuts and nut flour. So, thinking that I could fake them out (because one doesn't like nuts either), I bought this cookbook and have been pleasantly surprised at how much my kids like many of her recipes- including breakfast cookies, pumpkin muffins and these bars (all using nuts and/or nut flours).  I like her cookbook for another reason- I only had to shop for a few ingredients I didn't have on hand.  Her recipes are pretty down to earth compared to many of the alternative-diet recipes out there.


Okay, back to the bars.  I've made homemade granola bars in the past and the kids have liked them but they were often too crumbly.  These stay together beautifully and don't require heating up the kitchen with the oven.  They also remind me of Larabar bars, which I am very fond of.  And, my kids prefer these to any store-bought granola bars I've bought in the past.  Whoohoo!  And, they're very easy to make.  All you need is a saucepan, a food processor and your 9 x 13 inch pan.

So, here you go...enjoy!!

"Granola" Bars (No Bake and Gluten Free, adapted from this cookbook)
This recipe makes a 9 x 13 pan of bars.  Servings will depend on how large or small you cut them.

not quite 1/2 cup honey (you may find this too sweet and cut back a little more on your next batch)
1/2 cup peanut butter (I use natural peanut butter- you could also use almond butter)
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups nuts (any combination of almonds, pecans, cashews, macadamia nuts)
5 large dates (if you don't have/want to buy dates, simply up the dried fruits below a bit)
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened (or sweetened) coconut
1/3 cup raisins, dried cherries or dried cranberries or a combination
1/4-1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a small saucepan, combine honey, peanut butter, coconut oil and vanilla.  Heat to medium high heat and stir until melted all together.  Turn heat to low and let sit on heat, stirring occasionally, while you continue with the recipe.


In your food processor, place the remaining ingredients except for the chocolate chips and pulse until everything is chopped up fine and well-combined.  Pour the peanut butter mixture into the food processor and pulse until blended. Add the chocolate chips and pulse again.

                       

Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with parchment paper. Transfer the nut mixture to the pan and press out as best you can with the back of a spoon.  Next, place a sheet of plastic-wrap over the bars and press the mixture out evenly.  Remove the plastic wrap and place the bars in the freezer for 1 hour (set your timer or you may forget)!  Remove from the freezer and lift out the bars and parchment paper together, setting them on a cutting board.  Cut the bars to the desired size/shape and place them in an air tight container, separating the layers with wax or parchment paper, refrigerate and TRY to keep everyone from eating them all that very day. :-)

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Gilts, Super Vet and Other Pig News

A couple weeks ago, we added two gilts (young, female pigs) to our two males.  They're sisters (Blondie and Martha) and sweet as can be.  We've learned (in our very short time as pig owners) that females are less complicated than males.  Or, at least less complicated than un-castrated and hernia-inflicted males.



Due to our inability to get proper information on the two males we bought at auction (it may be their fault and it maybe ours) we came home with a small male with a hernia on his rear end and a larger male that was still "intact".


Usually male pigs are castrated when they are very young but Spock wasn't and while Jamey watched a few youtube videos on how to do it yourself, we thought it may be too traumatic to do it ourselves (and ask friends to help).

Since we're not up for raising piglets this year, we don't need an intact male. We also learned about boar taint.  If a male pig isn't castrated in good time before being butchered, his hormones taint the meat.  Some butchers (including the one we used to butcher Princess last year) won't butcher boars at all because of this concern (and USDA inspectors that come down hard on evidence of boar taint).

Boar taint is the offensive odor or taste that can be evident during the cooking or eating of pork or pork products derived from non-castrated male pigs once they reach puberty.

Much to our delight, an amazing local veterinarian was willing to make a house call and take a look at both pigs and charge us a very reasonable price for his services ($41.50 to be exact).  First, the vet took a look at little Wesley.  Apparently, the hernia issue he has is hereditary.  It could have been remedied when they castrated him but they (whoever "they" are) didn't.  At this point, it would have been too traumatic for all involved to repair it so we're leaving it be.  It's possible it will cause no troubles.  If it does, it will be obvious and he'll just need to be butchered early.


Jamey had talked to the vet on the phone prior to the visit and thought that Jamey would be able to hold Spock while he preformed the castration procedure.  Just to be sure, Jamey had lined up for a neighbor to come help.  Once the vet saw Spock, he thought for sure Jamey could handle it on his own and Jamey says he likely could have but he was SO happy (as was I!) when our neighbor entered the barn at just the right moment!

GORY DETAILS (in case you're interested):  Our super-hero vet chased Spock around the small stall and grabbed him by the back legs.  Once he had a good grip, he handed the legs to Jamey. While Jamey was getting a good grip, in walked our neighbor and took one of the legs from Jamey. Spock was doing a handstand-of-sorts with his belly facing the vet.  The vet disinfected the area with a special wash he brought along.  Then, in literally 5 seconds flat, the vet used a special little razor blade to make 2-inch slits in each sac and the testicles popped right out. He then quickly cut the membrane that they were attached to and dropped them on the ground.  Then, he used some sort of anapestic spray on the cuts and Spock was set back on the ground.

Spock stood oddly (for him) still and quiet while the vet proceeded to give me detailed instructions on how I could prepare the testicles for eating.  He said they are the most tender cut of a hog.  I stood there, trying not to let my semi-horror show, and listened politely.  Sadie fetched me a container and I stood, making polite conversation with the vet, our neighbor, husband and children- all the while holding testicles in my hand.  It's apparent that my 'firsts' will never end.


Our children all watched the procedure. It was a serious event.  Keeping animals for meat carries somber overtones all the way along. There's a balance you hold in your mind- developing a relationship with the animal, genuinely appreciating it and yet ultimately knowing they will one day die.  For us.

On a side note, have you all watched The Incredible Dr. Pol yet? Our whole family watches it on Netflix and loves it.  If you haven't watched it, you really must.

Little Wesley isn't so little anymore- he's almost the size of the girls and it's a little hard to tell apart initially.  He's still spoiled, though.  We weaned him off the formula but he still remembers it and squeals and fusses his little head off when we come into the barn and don't produce a dog bowl full of milk.  Once weaned off the milk, he remained stubborn for awhile and refused to go outside and root with the others.  Now, he's like one of the big kids- rooting about, laying in the sun and enjoying the great outdoors.

Wesley- actively whining and fussing at me


We're pleasantly surprised at how quiet they are.  Yes, Wesley fusses for milk, and there were the occasional piggy-yelps as they learned where the electric fences are but otherwise, there is only a low-level of happy, contented grunting while they root.

Occasionally during the day, they bed down together in the barn on top of the leaves if it's warm and under them if it's cool.  Sometimes they sleep outside.

their barn space


We've had to place a large tire around their water pail because Spock, especially, likes to get in the water and roll around a bit.  He still can, but the tire keeps all the water from spilling out.


I'm currently reading this recently released book about pigs and find it fascinating.  It's funny- before we got bees, I did a TON of reading and preparing.  With the pigs, there was some preliminary reading but now that they're HERE?! I must learn more!

I just might love them as much as our bees:-).

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