Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Meanderings

The last few weekends have been such a blessing because we've actually been at home to enjoy some weekend time together as a family. Our Saturdays have consisted of yard saling, canning pickles and putting the finishing touches on the house remodel project. Last week we scored at the yard sales! We found TWO youth guitars in excellent condition (one was even pink for Hailey) for $10 a piece and a nearly new kitchen set for the kids. They love it! That night, Josiah insisted that we form a family band. Josiah was on guitar, Michael on the banjo that he doesn't know how to play, Hailey on her 1/8 sized fiddle and me on my fiddle, very rusty indeed. Oh my, did I feel sorry for the neighbors because I realized halfway through the concert that we had left the windows open. Yikes! Oh well, we had fun playing together. Maybe someday we'll actually be able to play music instead of just making a joyful noise, LOL.Hailey was all dressed up and dancing to the music on her princess harp that we got her at a yard sale and the next thing I know, Josiah has come out of his bedroom in his dress pants and shirt, with a tie on, so he could dance with his sister. Aren't they cute? I wish they got along this good ALL the time!Our neighbor sent me this picture. He took it from across the street through his screen door. He labeled it "Mike's Little Helper". Michael seriously has the patience of a saint. He's been doing mortar work on the foundation and our new porch and steps all week. Can't wait till he's done so I can do a remodel (before and after pictures) post. We're almost done! Very exciting!!!I thought I'd throw this picture in of Hailey and Josiah playing in Hood River at Toll Bridge State Park. When we were visiting Michael's folks, they took us there. We had a wonderful time.I know it seems like all I ever take are pictures of Hailey, and so few of Josiah, but it seriously is because she will hold still for pictures! It is so hard to get Josiah to hold still long enough to get a good shot of him, LOL. I found Hailey in my bedroom playing with my vintage hair set. It thought it was so cute. She's in her little fairy costume. She loves to play dress up, just like her mama.This was one of the gifts we got Hailey for her 3rd birthday. I found it at a yard sale, Care Bears, still in the box, never opened for $5. It doesn't hold much tea which is great because it means that much less mess to clean up. She and Josiah have played with this tea set for hours. 

On a side note, my new schedule is working beautifully! I'm experiencing more free time that I've had in long time, hence more time to do a little blogging. When I have time, I'm scheduling posts ahead of time, making me a more consistent blogger. Because of the schedule, my homeschool and household is running so much smoother. I'm able to teach my kids more subjects, play with them, as well as get more chores done. It is going great! Such a blessing to get more organized.

Hope you all had a nice weekend. I look forward to catching up with all your blogs soon. 

God Bless,

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sawtooth Crater Field Trip

Last Thursday, the homeschool die-hards from our local Christian homeschool group, climbed the steep terrain to the top of a little-known volcano in our area. Everybody made it to the top, including several toddlers and a grandma. These are some tough homeschoolers, LOL! I had visited Sawtooth Crater 15 years ago on a university geology field trip. Since then, I've actively studied Creationism, and it was so neat to look out from the top of the volcano at the surrounding landscape with a whole new perspective this time. Seeing the effects of the different stages of Noah's flood and the quick uplifting that the bible so clearly talks about in Psalms 104, was indeed a fascinating theory to share.It was about an hour and a half drive to the volcano, but at first I couldn't find it because the "trail" sign was covered up with trees and you couldn't see it from the road. I kept driving and since we were so close to Balm Creek Reservoir, we decided to have picnic on it's shores. Good thing we did, because our geology trip also became a biology field trip. As soon as we stepped out of the car, the kids discovered hundreds of little frogs all over this green, grassy shore area. They were in heaven! Here is Hailey with one of her frogs. I had to make Josiah empty out his pockets before we got back into the car, LOL. He had handfuls!It was all we could do to get the kids to settle down and eat some lunch. Can you see that this was an absolutely perfect day? We didn't need shade, yet it was warm. Awesome weather, thank you, Lord!So we got back into our rigs and drove back to where my mental picture was taking me. Thank you, Lord, I was able to find the right pull-off for the trail head! In this picture, we're going through an eroded spot in one of the andesite dikes that fed the now-dead volcano. It is only about a mile and a half up the volcano, but it is steep. Not treacherous though. No cliffs to fall off of. This is the andesite plug in the middle of what is left of the volcano.Almost there! To the left of the picture, you can see the andesite rock outcrop that is the dike feeding the volcano.Here we are on top of the plug, with all of us blocking the beautiful Eagle Caps behinds us (uplifted mountains that have been glaciated). The tree line in the background is part of the crater's rim that goes around the entire volcano. It is so cool!  The beautiful panoramic view takes in the Eagle Caps, rest of the Wallowa mountains, Blue Mountains, Elkhorns, Keating Valley and Baker Valley. It is truly breathtaking, especially on a clear day like we had. I gave a quick "Big Picture" Creationist lecture about how the Northwest's landscapes were formed by Noah's Flood and the uplifting, erosion and glaciation that had taken place since then. We also talked did a lot of native plant identification as we walked up the trail. It was so much fun that I think I'll do at least one local geology field trip each year. 

God Bless,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Garden Bounty

I'm so happy with the results of our first attempt at a garden this year. This first picture is of our cabbages, broccoli (both coming on), cauliflower (still waiting) and peppers in the background). Yes, I learned a ton and will do many things differently next year, but the one things I can't complain about it the bounty. From the offset, we wanted an exclusively organic, heirloom garden. With the exception of a few pepper, tomato and watermelon plants not being from heirloom seed (some of the plants we planted from heirloom seed got frozen out, so we had to go to the nursery and buy what they had), we almost achieved that goal. We will definitely being growing a bigger garden next year and will make some raised beds. We didn't plant nearly enough peas or beans. Despite the field-bind weed, everything grew very well, thanks to the pick-up load of composted horse manure we put on our garden. Does anyone know how to get rid of field-bind weed (looks like morning glory) organically? If I don't get some good ideas, we're going to have to use Round-up this fall. Something I shudder to do, but we have to get it under control before we do raised beds. I don't want to just put plastic over everything and then bring in new soil, because the soil we have is so good. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Our pepper plants are huge! They are loaded with peppers, too. So far we've used most of them in our German Dill Pickles.Here is our tomato hedge, I jokingly call it. I planted the tomatoes way too close together, but again, they are loaded with tomatoes, all different varieties. 13 plants in all. They are finally starting ripen up just this week. Things are cooling down around here, but hoping we'll get a bunch ripen before the frost hits.I'm so excited about the four varieties of watermelon I planted. These are Charleston Grays. How do you know when watermelon is ready to pick? They still seem kind of small.Here is another variety, Jubilee, I think. My 35 pickling cucumber plants are alive and well and climbing into the watermelons and up the tomato hedge. We're getting an average of 7 lbs every couple of days. So far we've canned around 50 quarts of pickles. We're giving the rest away to friends who do pickles as well. I think 35 plants was just a tad too much, LOL.

Here is a box of some beautiful veggies from our garden. My carrots are doing good, although I planted a baby carrot variety. Next time I'll make sure they are larger carrots. I'm still getting fresh spinach, despite the hotter weather. I just keep breaking off the seed heads and it keeps coming back, same with the lettuce. Bush beans in are in the background. Love not having to go to the store to buy veggies!Here is a picture of the front part of the garden. Tomato hedge is blocking the view of the cukes and watermelons.

Hope all you gardeners out there are having a successful year as well! I'm about ready to start collecting seeds from some of my plants (radishes, turnips, lettuce and spinach), so if anyone knows of a good method, please leave me a comment. I'm always open for suggestions and gardening tips!

God Bless,

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pickling Fun

All the organic produce we use to make our German dill pickles have finally come on in our garden. Click here for the recipe. We canned 22 quarts last weekend and it is looking like we'll be canning about the same amount this weekend. In addition to the cucumbers, we use fresh onion, pepper slices and garlic (garlic was store bought - forgot to plant some). A friend gave us some dill since ours didn't germinate. I can't wait to try these babies in six weeks!
We have a propane burner set up in the shop to heat out canner that way we don't have to heat up the house. Very nice!

Packing the jars. Um, look at all that garlic on the counter just waiting to go into the jars. Everyone knows they better save Mom a piece of garlic!These are pickles from last year. Just wanted to show you the finished product. People go nuts over these. I'm not really a pickle person, but my family is crazy about them. They'll go through a jar after dinner in one night. Honestly, these are the only pickles I've ever liked. We're making enough to give as Christmas gifts because we know it is a unique gift that most people like. We'll probably pickle two more weekends. I'll be storing them under my bed, LOL.

BTW, Josiah took the first four pictures all by himself without any coaching from me. He seems to really like photography. We're thinking of getting him a cheap digital for his b-day.

I'm hoping to do a gardening post soon, now that we have some hot weather fruits and veggies coming on.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Chicken Whisperers

The Homestead Wannabes are at it again! Our latest within city limits homesteading adventure came in the form of 4 old stewing hens. The last time I visited family, my husband and Grandpa had cooked up a deal that involved me tying four hens in a gunny sacks (with air holes cut in them) to the back of a motorcycle trailer. You say the word "free" and my husband is in. I drove the three hours home with these chickens. One of them perished on the journey, so we immediately butchered it as soon as we got home. NOT, however, before my kids had a chance to sufficiently practice their homeschool dissecting skills. For being in-town kids, they sure don't have a fear of dead (or live animals).  Notice the chickens are tethered to stakes in the yard? I'll tell you more about that later in the post. Here is an egg they found in the hen that hadn't been fully formed yet. Fascinating stuff to this homeschooling family!Into the stew pot the hen went. I made some fresh chicken noodle soup. Yum! Older chickens make a very rich broth that is super tasty. Click here for my basic homemade broth recipe.

So the rest of the story is that my husband promised me, when I agreed to bring these darlin's home, he would butcher them right away. Well, we only got the one butchered the night I got home from vacation (last thing I wanted to do), then he promised me he'd get the others butchered the next day. A week went by before he actually got around to it. In the meantime, he had tried tethering the chickens to stakes in the yard. They kept getting lose. The lucky thing is that they never tried to get out of our great big fenced in yard. The fence is only four ft. high, so I was astonished that they didn't try to fly over the fence. 

The best part was Michael "herding" chickens. We had to keep them in his shop at night so the neighborhood cats wouldn't attack the hens. You should have seen Michael trying to get them in all by himself. It was hilarious! I finally went out and helped him after I had enough amusement for the evening. I'm so naughty! Michael wouldn't let me take pictures :( It would have been great on film, too. I now call him the "Chicken Whisperer". 

The last straw came a week later when I woke up to the sound of chickens clucking desperately early in the morning. Michael had let them out early in the morning. I went outside to chase one of the hens off the deck and she wouldn't move. I looked over and there was the neighbor's cat, checkin' out the chicken. I called Michael and told him he had to take care of them that night or the cats would do it for him! At least those chickens had a last hoorah as they roamed our huge backyard for their final week of life. They are now safe and sound in our freezer. Good thing too because I was starting to get attached. We live within the city limits and chickens aren't allowed. Oh well, it was certainly an interesting week for these homestead wannabes!

Many Blessings,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Flower Among the Weeds

Last month, my sister took me and the kids (along with her six kids) to another pioneer cemetery near the ranch my parents manage. It was a beautiful little Catholic cemetery - many immigrants from Ireland. The head stones said which counties they were from in Ireland. It was fascinating. Even though it was hot and dry, there were a lot of late-blooming flowers (mostly) weeds. It was a perfect place for an impromptu photo shoot. Josiah won't ever stand still long enough, so Hailey usually ends up being my subject. Even though my camera stinks (hoping to get a new one for Christmas), I came up with this one really good shot. Doesn't it just scream, "Miss Personality"?Browsing through the flowers.I absolutely love this shirt. Normally I don't like red on Hailey (because of her hair and skin tone), but for some reason this shirt works. Thanks, Abby!I love the way the wind is blowing her hair in this picture.I was trying to experiment with some foreground work. I liked the wrought-iron fence, headstone in the corner and children in the tall vegetation. Jacob (Stacie's son) and Hailey were having a great time playing in the weeds together. This cemetery has an incredible view as you can see by the horizon. You could many of the mountains in the Cascades. What a beautiful place to rest in peace.

There is so much history in old cemeteries. So much left up to the imagination. Great homeschooling opportunities await in pioneer cemeteries. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hailey's 3rd Birthday - A Luau Party

So our princess turned three at the beginning of Aug. We did a simple Luau themed party for her. We all had a blast! It was so cute to see her really be old enough to "get" that it was her birthday and we were celebrating her birth. Of course she ate up all the attention and was just so cute the whole day. It was so neat to have her finally as excited as I am about her birthday, LOL! We were on a tight budget, so I borrowed some decorations and utilized our local dollar store to put on a fun party for her. Above is the princess in all her Luau glory.We were blessed with this long collapsible table. It is coming in handy with all the parties we have around here. I utilized sand buckets for straws and utensil holders, borrowed the tablecloth from my mom and used some baskets we already had around the place to hold the treat bags. I used mismatched plates and cups because I'm realizing, kids just don't care! I also made watermelon limeade and used my big silver mixing bowl as a punch bowl.  I bought a cheap "Hula Till You Drop" cake (we only buy store bought cakes for my kids' birthdays - it is a very special treat for them). I just can't make a cake look that pretty. This is a picture of my step-dad, Larry, Mom, me, Hailey, my grandma, Mary, and my dear friend, Kay. Everyone wore Luau gear. If you've followed my blog for long, you'll know I love any excuse to dress up. I've never really done games before because I thought they were too much work. This time, I searched on-line and got a few Luau games for kids that involved water, but not where kids were getting completely soaked. I didn't have to buy prizes for these games. It was hot that day, so a little cooling off was welcome. The first game we did (I forgot to get a picture) was a "Seashell" hunt. We hid seashells all over the yard and let the kids find them. The second game involved a bucket and a couple of dollar store fishing poles. They got to "fish" for plastic sea creatures with their magnet poles.  Of course we had to do a water balloon toss.  There were enough water balloons left for everyone (even the adults) to have a final water balloon fight. Fun!I thought this was a clever game. We created a "Shooting Gallery" with squirt guns. My SIL took the time to draw targets on some plastic cups. It was really cute.Hailey scored in the gift department. She got all kinds of Princess stuff, neat pens, water play items and books. My grandma made her some pretty butterflies to "fly" in her bedroom windows. Hailey loves them! I thought this was a sweet picture of her and her great grandmother (GG Mary). 

We were blessed to have so many friends and family there for Hailey's birthday party. It was a perfect day. A big thanks to my MIL and SIL for all their help with pre-party preparations! 


Friday, August 13, 2010

New Vision + New Schedule = Peace

Where do I begin? I've been so busy between Hailey's 3rd birthday (future post), gardening, soccer, homeschooling, working, making cheese and cooking most things from scratch, I feel like I've been in over my head all summer. This last weekend changed all that. I had the opportunity to go with my twin sister to visit one of her dear friends, Catherine. Click here to see her blog "Cat's Tale Productions". I've known her mostly through the blogging world, but last weekend I felt like I really got to know her on a personal level. I feel privileged to welcome another Titus 2 woman into my life. The good Lord used her significantly last weekend to speak into my life in a way that even stunned her. She didn't realize God would use her that weekend in such an amazing way. Here is a picture of me, Catherine and Stacie in her living room. I feel so tall when I'm around Catherine. She is adorable inside and out. It was a nice long trip to the little out-of-the-way town in Idaho where she lives, so Stacie and I were able to have plenty of sister time on the way to and from. It is always such a treat to talk with my sister without the constant (many times unintentional) interruptions going on because of the kids. Believe me, we treasure these moments! 

One of the things I learned this last weekend was how to really relax. I always equated relaxing to going and doing some fun activity. I discovered that simply sitting around talking for two days straight was extremely relaxing. Especially when I was being edified and taught. The pain in my shoulders and neck where completely gone by Sunday. 

God had been laying on my heart my need for a tighter schedule so that I could live more intentionally. Ever since having my second child, I've been struggling to find a regular bible study time. I knew God also wanted to add regular devotional times with my kids. I didn't know how to fit these things into my life with all the other things I'm "required" to do. Unbeknownst to me, Catherine just happens to be a scheduling expert. I'm mean, she goes around and gives talks on it. God is soooo good! He knows just what we need, when we need it the most. As we talked and brainstormed, I literally felt the most awesome peace come over me. She helped me plan out my basic week, day by day, in half hour increments. I can't believe how well this is working. I'm finding time to actually do some deep cleaning around the house, play with my kids more, as well as discovering some free time I didn't know I possessed. She helped me fit in four days of homeschooling (2 hours each day), bible study/devotion times, all the cooking from scratch I need to do (for us to survive on basically one income), and even helped me squeeze in 6 hrs a week to do soil database work (from home). She encouraged me to guard my time better. I've been terrible about answering the phone during homeschooling hours or work time, which just makes everything drag out even longer. Before I know it, the day is shot and I hadn't got enough done. My efficiency has improved tremendously. I'm getting the kids to bed earlier, too. Most of all I'm living guilt-free! I was always feeling guilty about not getting it all done because of my inefficiency. I'm now making sure the most important things are done first and the rest is gravy.

Catherine also happens to be a homeschool tutor. Hello! So of course, I told her some of my struggles I've been having with homeschooling my son and she had all kinds of great ideas that I'm already implementing. Basically, what I need to really focus on at his age is encouraging his LOVE of reading and math, everything else will come later.  These are the foundations for those other subjects to be more formally taught when he is older. I can't keep pressing on when he gets distracted while reading. Instead, when I can tell he is getting distracted, we take a 10 minute break and do some math instead, then we go back to reading, then math. This is working much better. It is keeping both of us less frustrated. Thank you, Catherine! She really helped my sis, too, with some of her homeschooling woes.  She emphasized keeping things fun and switching up the routine. She taught us how to make paper balloons, something I would have never done on my own. My kids loved them. The other wonderful thing about going to Catherine's house is the fabulous food! Five years ago, I went to visit her. I was there a total of three hours before I fell down her stairs in the dark and broke the tip of my collarbone off. As I recovered on her couch the rest of that weekend, she fed me delicious, nutritious meals, totally foreign to me. I was fascinated. You mean healthy stuff can taste good? It was a new concept to me. It took me another year, and more education, before I got brave enough to begin using whole grains and unrefined sugar. Now that is all I cook with. One of the meals we made this time was Thai rolls. Oh my gosh, these are the most amazing summer meal. Just so fresh and light. Yum! Click here for the recipe on my sister's blog. She's got step by step instructions. You'll love these!Aren't they beautiful?

Now, that soccer is over, I can breathe even more. Incidently, Josiah, got a medal for sportsmanship. This is a miracle as he had the worst sportsmanship ever at the beginning of the season. I was ready to pull him after his first game. So glad I didn't. Through prayer, devotions on self control, role playing and threatening, he did a complete turn around in the sportsmanship department. He also did well playing soccer. He got several goals. 

Just have one more birthday coming up. Josiah's will be celebrated at my sister's house this year. We're doing a Revolutionary War themed birthday party for Josiah and his two oldest cousins. We're going to do high tea and have a "scone cake" instead of the traditional cupcake cake. Should be fun! I'll be posting Hailey's Luau birthday party picture next. 

Sorry this was such a long post. My blogging time is extremely limited right now, so I wanted to get a lot in since I actually had time to post tonight. I just wanted to share with you what God has been doing in my life. I'm so grateful to His precious Word and people He puts in my path to keep pointing me in the right direction. I can't imagine living life without my Savior and Friend to guide and direct my path. All I can say is Praise Him!!!

In Christ,

Monday, August 2, 2010

Horse Camp at the Beach, Part 3

So as most of you know, camping is all about the food, especially when you're at the beach. We ate out of the ice chest all weekend so that we could afford to spend some $$$ on seafood. The second night we were there we bought oysters to cook over the camp fire and some steamer clams. We cooked the oysters until they started to pop open. We popped the top off the shells and continued to cook them in the shell, topping them off with a mixture of butter, Worcestershire sauce, Parmesan cheese and bacon bits. Unbelievably yummy! This is the way I learned to eat oysters and a good way to get kids to eat them, too. The last night we camped, we got fresh crab. It was Hailey's first time ever eating crab. She wasn't a big fan, but Josiah ate his share and hers.For lunch one day, we all roasted brats and dogs of the fire. My step-mom brought the giant marshmallows. They were extremely messy, got all over the kids clothes and faces. My sister is demonstrating how best to eat one, LOL!How's this for a classic kid camping face?My sister's daughter, Jessica, is a perfect example of giant marshmallow messiness.The cool thing about camp life for Hailey is that she always had a lap to sit on. Here she is snuggling up with Great-Papa Fay.This is a parting shot of Josiah trying desperately to ride a bike that was too big for him, without training wheels (he wants to keep up with his cousins so badly). He exhausted his Mom and Dad in the process. He just doesn't have the coordination yet. We need to get a bike that fits him.  

Thanks for visiting. Hope you are having a great week. I've got something wrong with the sound on my computer, so I'm going to have to take it into the doctor today. Hope to be back on-line soon.

God Bless,


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