April 30, 2010

Dandelion fritters and wine

It's dandelion season here in Pennsylvania and I'm looking for some new ways to add them to our diet.  We've eaten them prepared like endive with hot bacon dressing but I'd like to learn to use them in other ways as well.  Tomorrow I'm hoping to gather dandelion flowers for a batch of wine.  It's a wonderful tonic to have on hand to chase away the beginnings of a cold or just for a healthy boost, one spoonful at a time.

A cooking site that I belong to mentioned dandelion fritters.  My first thought was a batter dipped flower head deep fried and crispy.  But what I found was an interesting recipe that included other healthy vegetables as well.  Since the recipe was not precise on other ingredients, I used what I had on hand plus a few wildcrafted leeks.  (Probably not a good choice for Sunday morning breakfast before church!!)  The batter is one egg, one cup of flour and one cup of milk.  To this I added the leaves, flowers and roots of about 5 hearty dandelions, 3-4 wild leeks (bulbs and leaves), one shredded white potato, 1/2 shredded sweet potato, one small zucchini and one small yellow squash, both shredded.  These were mixed together in a bowl and cooked on a hot griddle like a pancake.  Next time, I'll saute the veggies first and then add the batter.  They were a little bitter even with S&P to taste but a little salsa took care of that problem.  Maybe maple syrup would be good.  Yum!

April 29, 2010

Life and all that stuff

Things have been fairly busy lately and I haven't taken the time to write much.  (A habit from way back.)  But I have a few minutes to put down some wandering thoughts. 

Tonight is the fourth performance of M*A*S*H at our local community theater with two more shows to go tomorrow and Saturday.  It's been so much fun gettting to know some people better and meeting others for the first time.  I'm still a little timid about being on stage but I'm growing in that area.  Both of my girls are in the show with my youngest having two fairly big parts that have really helped her develop her stage presence.  My oldest has a good sized part as a nurse and has come a long way in the past few years with overcoming her shyness by performing on stage in some major roles.  They are both so talented and I'm really proud of them.

My plants are growing quickly now and I'm thinking ahead to the garden.  There are a few details that I need to plan out soon.  I just sent a lot of plants to my young friend, Zach, in NC.  He's been adding to his garden and learning about new ideas he can use in it.  Their growing season is much longer than ours so he's been able to put a lot of plants in the ground already.  We've had overnight temps in the low 30's, even dipping below one night so there's not a lot that I can put out yet.

I've been doing some baking and trying to keep up with my weekly dairy chores.  The biscotti was a big hit here so I think I'll have to make more soon.  This week I made flatbread, blueberry pie, pizza with homemade crust, breakfast bars, yogurt and yogurt cheese.

Oh, praise the Lord, we have our truck back.  I'm praying that it will last a few more years without any more major problems. 

Well, I have a few chores that need my attention so I'll try to write more soon.

April 24, 2010

Who's out there?

Hey, if you've read my blog and thought you might come back to see what's new, why not become a follower?  I'm really doing this for me but it's nice to know who's out there.   Let me know what you think. :)

If you read the blog description under the title, you'll see that I wear several hats and enjoy each one. The things you'll find here are reflections of my life.  Things I ponder, meandering interests that keep me busy and things that are happening in our lives but mine specifically.

Sometimes I'm sharing thoughts about new things I'm adding to my routine to care for my family's health, either through diet or use of herbal remedies.  It gives me a feeling of satisfaction to know that I can make tinctures and salves, among other things, from natural ingredients, that will allow me to heal my family without relying on a  lot of medicatons that contain harmful chemicals.  That's not to say that I wouldn't seek a doctor's help but for the most part, at this stage of life, there are a lot of things I can do to right here.  My husband's family is said to have some Lenni Lenape blood so we've learned about how the indians used plants for healing.  The history is rich and fascinating.

Other times, I'm sharing what's going on in my kitchen.  Some are tried and true traditional skills that most folks are familiar with, but others are things that sound weird or different from what we're used to practicing.  Recipes, fermented drinks or food, personal care products that I make to avoid harmful chemicals that may be a part of commercial products, making soap from scratch, some of the many things you can do with raw milk, and lots more.

I'll write about my garden and share what goes on there throughout the growing season and harvest.

Sometimes my mind wanders off on a rabbit trail or I write about ideas I've been pondering.  These may not interest folks, I don't know.   Nothing too personal, I guess, just thoughts about my faith or feelings that needed a safe place to vent.  It helps me figure things out to write it down and read it over.  Maybe some of the same thoughts are meandering around inside someone else's mind and reading them here will help them see things from a different perspective. 

Anyway, it would be great to know who's reading and what you think about my meanderings.  I've included a little comment bar at the end of each post that will allow readers to simply check some basic thoughts they may have after reading what I've written.  Your written comments are welcome. 

April 20, 2010

I love it when a recipe comes together

Just finished making a cleansing facial mask!  I tried it out and love it.  We'll see how my skin responds over the next few weeks!
It includes some essential oils, clays and some basic cleansing cream ingredients.  The great thing is that you can personalize a home made cream to suit your skin type.

Trying new things

You may remember my young friend, Zach, who is doing all kinds of interesting things in his garden and kitchen.  He's really busy with his garden and studies right now but he's promised to share a little about his coffee adventures when he can find the time.

Zach loves to bake.  Not just simple recipes, he makes all kinds of things.  I love biscotti but have never tried to make my own, but Zach has.  So I decided to give it a try.  The recipes are from the Joy of Baking website.  My husband really likes anise so I tweaked the almond biscotti recipe a little.  It turned out very well.  It's not very hard to make, it just takes a few extra steps.  I also made the chocolate/hazelnut recipe leaving out the extra baking chocolate chunks because I didn't have any on hand.   The first batch I made was chocolate chip/almond.  I'm still trying to decide which one I like best!

April 19, 2010

It's a new day and a new week

With all that's supposed to happen this week, I may not have a chance to write much here.  My weekend was not very productive because I ended up with a flu bug.  It must have been the 48 hour type.  Still feeling a little tired but better.

It's going to be a busy but fun time!  Lord willing, things will go off without a hitch.  M*A*S*H opens this week so there are dress and tech rehearsals 3-4 days with opening night on Friday. Shows Sat night and Sunday afternoon this week and again next Thurs., Fri. and Sat. nights.  It's been a real privledge to be a part of this show with my girls.  They are doing an awesome job!  The cast and crew are a great bunch of people.

We have some company coming on Saturday and lots of regular life things happening all week that will keep me busy.

Most of my seeds have sprouted and are doing very well.  There are a few things that haven't come up yet but I'm hoping everything will be up in the next couple of days.  It's been freezing or near it every night this week but temps are supposed to be warmer in the next few days. I'm hoping to transfer my flats to the green house after the plants have their second set of leaves.  It will be fun to have the variety of tomatoes and basil that we can pick and sample on the spot!  Next week we'll start preparing the garden to plant the end of May.  I'm praying that our truck will finally be repaired this week and we can be back to normal.  I'm so thankful that we have the opportunity to fix it instead of having to buy something else.  God is good!  All the time. 

Well, I'm not sure what woke me at this time of night but I'm going back to bed and hopefully back to sleep.

April 17, 2010

Who am I?

**Warning!!  Personal thoughts running rampant!**

If you've read the introduction to this blog, the post that tells why I'm writing here and my profile, you know a little about who I am and who I want to become.  Sure, you'd think at my age I'd have been down this road far enough to figure it out.  Well...I'm still growing.  On the outside in ways that I really don't want to but am having a hard time working through.  And on the inside, I'm still trying to measure up.  Hopefully, first, to standards I've gleaned from the Bible, but then I get into trouble by trying to measure myself by standards other people have set for me or unreasonable standards that I've set for myself.  I mean, there are some things I can do to improve...lots of things...but I get into the habit of thinking that what I'm doing and what I'm interested in or the place I find myself in life are not good enough.  But not good enough for whom?  Based on my evaluation of myself through other people's eyes.  I need to stop doing that.  I am who I am and I'm trying to be better in ways that matter. 

Sometimes I feel like I'm losing myself.  I know that sounds a little bit 60's but I don't know how else to say it.  What do I have to do to accept myself?  With all my good qualities as well as all my limitations?  All the mistakes I make and the good things I do?  What's stopping me from moving ahead and doing more of the things I would like to do...the things I maybe should be doing?  I'd like to point fingers and say, "Well, if this... or if that.", but I know deep inside that the only person that's holding me down is me.  I don't have to be the same as someone else.  I don't have to measure myself by their standards even if they do.  Sure, I care very much about how my loved ones or friends feel about me.  I really hate to disappoint them.  It's especially hard if one of them is the one who makes me feel like a failure.  But more often than not, I find myself basing my evaluation of myself on the standards of people who really aren't all that important to me.  Folks who've set themselves up as models that the rest of us should only aspire to be like.  Know what?  That's a bunch of poppycock!

Sometimes I'm tired being me. But then, sometimes I love being me. And I'm thankful for everything God has given me, even the trials. It's just hard to keep that in perspective all the time.

The reasons that I want to be better or grow have to start with me.  I can't always base my decisions on what someone else wants me to do or become.  I have to do it because it's what I want, what I need to do.  If my heart is in the right place and my expectations are based on being the best person I can be because that's what I want, chances are all the people I care about will be happy with who I am too.  So what about all the others?   Maybe I'm not the only one who needs to re-evaluate.   I'm just saying.

April 15, 2010

It's been a while since I've made sourdough bread with only wild yeast that I "caught"  right here at home or some that I'd started from sourdough cultures I'd purchased from other regions.  It's an interesting process and one that was a little daunting due to the constant maitainance required, or so I'd read, by the starter which begins to take on a life of it's own.  Feedings and care twice a day...may as well have my own dairy cow to milk!
Well, all that's in the past.  The booklet "Simple Sourdough" confirmed what I had thought about this fussy and demanding new "child" growing on my kitchen counter.  It was spoiled!  Catered to and coddled by an overprotective, misled mama!  No more.
In two days time, I was baking sourdough bread and it turned out very well.  The process was easy.
I mixed 1 cup of flour (wheat is recommended) with one cup luke warm water in a glass bowl which I covered with a plate.  This experiment, like most of the others, spent some time in the warm corner of my counter by the frig.  After about 4 hours, I began to see some activity and by the next morning, things were looking and smelling good.  The starter should be bubbly and have a sour smell.  If you catch the wrong microorganisms and your starter smells foul, throw it out and start over.
Wild yeast is all around us in the air and also in the wheat.  The blend of wild yeasts that we are able to catch depends on our environment.  Italian sourdough has a specific taste because of the region in which the yeast is captured.  Perhaps the most famous is sourdough bread from the San Francisco area with its slightly salty taste.  Before the industrialization of bread production, all bread was made with wild yeast.  In the mid 1800's sourdough was the only option folks had if they wanted a loaf of bread like we picture today.  When more and more folks started looking to buy their bread from others instead of making it at home, the corner baker couldn't keep up.  So the art of bread baking took a back seat to the new strains of yeast that were separated and grown for the purpose of making consistant bread products in large quantities.  Hence the industrialization of another traditional skill.  And the love wasn't the only thing that was lost.

Sourdough, like yogurt, is a semi pre-digested food.  People who are allergic to wheat can sometimes eat sourdough.  Toasting it can make it even more easy to digest.  Organisms in the wild yeast begin to break down parts of the wheat that are hard to digest or actually make it harder for the body to extract nutrients from the bread.  That's pretty easy to understand but another aspect of the sourdough process has to do with the fermentation of the dough.  Remember when we talked about the beneficial bacteria in yogurt?  Probiotics?  Lactofermentation?  Well, the sourdough process also allows time for the lactobacteria to multiply to the point where they can also break down other hard to digest parts of the wheat or gluten as well as protect the dough from harmful types of bacteria that may also be in the air.  Commercial yeast is added in quantities that don't allow time for this second step and only introduce certain yeasts to the dough.  Kind of a quick fix that leaves out some important ingredients that make the process healthy instead of increasing allergies and "leaky gut" syndrome that can cause a lot of other problems.  When food passes through the gut before it's supposed to the body's reaction to it is often the same as it's reaction to opiates. It's a more involved than that and if you want to know more, I'd be happy to go a little deeper.

Back to the process...
To the starter, I added 8 cups of whole wheat flour and enough water to make the consistancy that of pancake batter.  This is now called the sponge.  I cover the sponge and put it to rest in a warm area for a few hours or overnight.  The idea is to have the sponge at a luke warm temperature that is not too cold to keep the yeast from multiplying or hot enough to kill them.  The sponge is ready when it's slightly domed, smells sour and is stringy when you stir it.  If you leave it go too long, the wild yeast will eat the gluten strands and your sponge will be runny.  You can still use it but the bread will be more sour and much heavier.

Next, remove 1/2 cup of the sponge for the next batch. And add 2 tbsp salt to the sponge.

Now add 8 more cups of flour - one cup at a at time.  Stop when you can stick your fingers in the dough a bit and pull them out clean.  The less flour you add, the lighter your dough will be.  This is the step where you can make the bread any kind you want by adding different flour, like rye.  Wheat will give you the lightest texture.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until it's springy.  Then form into four loaves and put them into greased or oiled bread pans.  Cover the pans with a wet towel and put them in a warm place to rise for 3-4 hours or more.

Start baking with a cold oven to encouragement the loaves to rise a little more.  Set the oven at 375 and bake for 55 minutes.  Try to resist cutting in to the fresh baked bread for 1/2 an hour to allow it to finish baking.  This bread doesn't need to be wrapped or bagged and, if kept at room temperature, will not spoil or mold for about 3 weeks.

Thanks to Mark Shepard for making this intimidating process a lot more "user" friendly.  If you're like me, you don't have time to tend a fussy culture or plan a week ahead if you want to bake bread.  The time required is essential to keeping the process healthy but once the starter is made, you can store it in the frig in a loosely covered jar and it should stay good for about 2 months without another thought from you.  When you are ready to use it, just pour off any dark liquid that has formed on top.

Whole grain sourdough bread that is made like this today is often called artisan bread or European style and considered a delicacy.  Thus commanding high prices.  Why not try making your own?  Then start branching out into all the ways you can incorporate sourdough into your diet.  The possibilities are nearly endless! 

April 12, 2010

Help? Anyone?

Each time I place a recommendation for a book in my blog post, the ad itself is surrounded by a white border on 3 sides.  Does anyone know how to elimnate the border so the ad blends in with my blog background?

Spring is in the air

What is it about this time of year that makes me itch to get out my ball and glove?  Tom feels it too.  I miss those days!

April 11, 2010

The back door

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to make a decision to change?  Folks start out determined to become a new person in one way or another.  But how often are we able to follow it through? 
You don't often hear people say that they are going to try to be more of a bully, or try to gain weight or even vow to drink more.  Most of the changes we want to make are to better ourselves.  To learn to be the kind of person that folks want to call their friend, show that special someone that we really do care about them or become better at something we do.  In the case of Christians, our goals almost always involve ways to change us into "better" followers of Christ.  The walk looks very much the same from a distance but up close each person may have some unique gifts or, on the other hand, challenges that mean that they have to tweak their pursuit a bit to help them stay on the path.

That's when Satan attacks.  He's been lurking in the background just waiting for us to become vulnerable so he can send a little nudge our way that will knock us into the ditch.  Hanging around the back door waiting for us to get comfortable.  His approach is actually very clever.  The attack isn't usually a frontal one but the sneaky, sidling, shadowy beginnings of doubt that get at us from the inside.  It begins to strangle our lifeline to Christ and in our weakness and inability to see things clearly, all it takes is a mere flick of a finger to send us meandering off the path that will bring us closer to Christ and nearer to the pit of despair.  And that's right where he wants us.  Cut off by our own blindness, we are unable to maintain the changes that would have made us just a little bit more like our Savior, draw us a little closer to Him and even those we wanted to show that we could be better friends or whatever.  So guess who wins that round!?

But lets hope its only a set back and not a gorge so deep that we can't find our way back.  Even so, the plan has been successful to a point.  Now we have to start again, repairing the damage done and trying to find our strength again so we can draw close to the One who carries us over the rocky cliff and points us down the path again.  We know that He's holding us in the palm of His hand as long as we are willing to be there.  If we take things into our own hands, well...He never stops loving us but we can make things pretty hard on ourselves and those around us when we lose sight of the goal.
Spiritual warfare is often hard to see so when the devious wiles of the prince of darkness start to draw us away, we must fight back!  We can't let him get us down.  God never promised that it would be easy but He did promise to go through it right by our side.  And He's suited us with the armor and weapons we need to stand our ground.  Ephesians 6:11-17.

In the garden

Well, not yet.  It's still about 6 weeks before I can plant in the garden, at least crops that are burnt by late spring frost.  My oldest daughter planted a few varieties of radishes, leeks and some swiss chard in the kitchen garden.  We have several varieties of things growing inside.  Lots of different tomatoes, a few peppers, some pumpkins, squash and melons, tomatillas, herbs and others.  Plus we have lots to sow directly in the garden.

We're trying a few different types of planting this year but I'm not going to get into a lot about that right now.  I've done raised beds which are my favorite because they are so much easier to maintain and I can easily use a mini tunnel to protect them from frost or cover them with a removable hothouse frame.  They also lend themselves well to square foot gardening. 

This week, after temps in the 80's, we're back to more normal April weather with highs in the 50's and lows in the 30's.  I'm considering putting a few lights in the green house to generate a little heat so temps don't drop too low at night.  I have a little wood stove that I could put there but I'm not sure there would still be room for me!
I'm dreaming again!  I think I could use lots of things I have here and make the ideal multipurpose structure that would open things up a bit.  Oh, yeah!  The wheels are turning.  I need to keep my feet on the ground...at least for now.

My youngest started working in the greenhouse of an organic farm not far from our house.  She'll be keeping a journal of her gardening both here and on the farm and hopefully she'll learn some things that will help make her garden thrive.  One of the beauties of homeschooling is that it allows you to cover what's required but focus on the specific interests of each child.  She loves gardening and cooking when she's not in the woods or getting ready for a play at our community theater.  At this point, her other studies are just getting in the way!

Here's a link to the organic farm, CSA and poultry share  http://www.westlibertyfarm.com/

Another great place in the area to learn about sustainable agriculture, green gardening, ecofriendly living and traditional skills is just down the road at http://www.quietcreekherbfarm.com/  As part of their efforts to educate folks on being good stewards of our land, Quiet Creek has built a straw bale addition onto their barn to house interns and are in the process of completing a large yurt with some interesting features.  Last summer, they installed a windmill to generate electricity and are working on some solar panels too.  They are great folks who welcome visitors on Friday and Saturday.
Check out the recently released (Nov. 2009) book by a budding young author who happens to be a friend of ours.  Written when he was 16, the underlying struggles in this book represent a period in his life when he faced some areas of confusion and bitterness.  Writing November helped him through this time and made him a stronger person. 

April 9, 2010

Another project from the fermenting kitchen

Water Kefir

Earlier in my adventures with raw milk, I mentioned milk kefir, a cultured dairy product that you can make at home that is supposed to be full of probiotics and nutrients providing many health benefits.  The cousin of this dairy wonder is water kefir.  The grains for water kefir arrive in a dried state looking much like course evaporated cane juice or kosher salt.  I've read that you can use the milk kefir grains to change over to water kefir but there are conflicting reports on the success of that idea. 
When I made my first batch of water kefir, I started with grains from a friend so I don't have experience with hydrating the grains from scratch.  She brought them to me in a jelly jar filled with maple syrup which I stored in the frig until I was ready to start.

Quick Tip - Placing the water kefir grains in a little muslin bag makes it so much easier to separate the grains from the fruit pieces for the next batch.

It's very easy to make.  Since heat kills the culture, you can start with room temp water (not cold).  Make sure the water is not chlorinated.  We have well water and I use it right from the tap but you can use purified or filtered water.  I use a half gallon canning jar filled about 3/4 full of water.  Do not use metal utensils or containers to stir or brew your kefir.   To this I add 1/3-1/2 cup of evaporated cane juice or rapadura, 1/2 lemon washed and squeezed, rind and all, into the jar, 3 slices of peeled ginger root, and a generous tablespoon of dried fruit (no sulfites or sugar).  Stir well to dissolve the sugar.  Add the bag of grains (approx. 2-3 Tbsp).  The jar is capped and put in the warm corner of my kitchen counter near the frigerator and always warm coffee maker.  After 48 hours, I strain off the solids (these can be composted, fed to my chickens or all but the lemon can be added to my worm bin).  I put the kefir in another bottle or jar and cap tightly.
What I'm left with is a slightly to very fizzy, fruity, somewhat tart, refreshing drink that is reported to be very beneficial for detoxing, probiotic supplementation and other health benefits.  Another day on the counter increases the fizz but you may want to put it in the frig after that so it doesn't turn too sour. 

Here's the link to a site that talks about the benefits, dosages and specifics of kefir.  http://www.weim.net/homeovet/Docs/water%20kefir.pdf 

You can be as complicated as you like with it.  I've found that just following a basic, simple recipe and routine allows me to keep up with it on a regular schedule.
You're probably wondering about the added sugar...as with all fermented foods and drinks, the culture feeds on the added sugar and by the time it's ready to drink, the sugar has been used up.  Keep in mind that this is a fermented beverage so it does contain the slightest bit of alcohol - reported to be less than 1% but can be as high as 3% depending on the amount of sugar, temp, length of time, etc.
Now you are ready to make your next batch.  Just drop the bag of grains into the jar and start over with a new batch of fruit.  Try a variety to find you favorite combo.  As you make more kefir, your bag of grains will multiply and you'll have enough for two batches or some to share.
Again, as I've mentioned before, these are things we do in our home.  They may or may not work for you in the same way.  Do your research.  Learn about what you're making and then go have fun with it and enjoy!

Feeling kinda sad

My baby girl started her first job today!  So I'm here all alone for a few hours.  It makes me kinda sad to think how close I am to being in an empty nest...not liking that at all.  Guess I'd better get into some chores to keep myself busy.  Otherwise I'll think about it way too much.  I mean, I have several years to go but I know it's coming. 

April 8, 2010

Still working on widgets and regulating the overnight temps in our recycled "kenneloop" -christened by my BFF Missy!
Anyone have any experience with widgets?

April 6, 2010

The recycled greenhouse

Here's what we started with; left are the long hoops of recycled black well pipe fastened together with the recycled metal supports from the shed that collapsed under a heavy snow.  The photo on the right is our dog kennel/peep pen.

And here's what we ended up with;
The wire "ceiling" was added when we had growing peeps to keep raccoons out and fledgling hens from flying out of the pen. 

Scenes from the kitchen garden.

April 5, 2010

Ya gotta wonder

(*WARNING* more meanderings from the heart)

Don't you wonder what people are thinking sometimes? I do. Puzzling behavior makes me wonder what their motivation might be. Sometimes it makes me doubt myself or doubt them. Doubt is not a healthy emotion. It eats away inside us and we act in ways that we wouldn't normally act because we are no longer operating within the sphere of rational behavior. What appears, to me, to be common sense often elludes some folks making allowing them to say or do things that are detrimental to their goals and/or desires.
Do they mean what they say or are they just saying one thing and doing another? Can I trust them to say/do the same thing when they are with other people that they say/do (or don't do) when they're around me? Are their actions consistant with their goals?
This is especially important in relationships that matter. Or will matter. Ones that will last us a lifetime. Parent/child, husband/wife, sinner/savior. There are a lot of ways to show others that we care about them and that they can trust us. Taking responsibility for our actions, having consideration for their feelings, and after God, putting them first (or depending on the type of relationship, at least on a higher level than we place ourselves) are ways to do that. These things can play out in a lot of different ways but no matter where we've grown up or how we've been raised, for the most part, people value and understand the same basic principles of relationships.
In light of these thoughts, folks sometimes puzzle me. A lot.

Along the same lines as my thoughts about people who make things happen and people who wait for things to happen to them or for them, I wonder if the latter group, remember that I sometimes fall in this one, are just lacking the passion required to go after what we want? Do we want it but only if it happens that way? Meaning that we like the idea and would be happy if things worked out the way we want them to but we'll be happy with whatever happens either way. Is this to be confused with contentment? I don't think so. How about complacency? Can we afford to be complacent? Or do we really want it bad enough to take action? Obviously, I'm not talking about things that are sinful, just things that might require some heartfelt action on our part.

What is passion? According to Webster's 1828 dictionary, it can be anger or love or anywhere inbetween that initiates a strong desire/emotion. So what about emotions? They play a huge part in our lives. It's not easy to moderate our emotions to keep them from running away with us. How do we make the distinction between powerful emotions that are godly and ones that are not? Jesus expressed, among many, anger, sadness, kindness and love. I often think that it's not the emotions that get us into trouble but what we do with them. And by the same token, what we don't do with them. It all comes down to responsibility. Again.

Are passion and devotion the same thing? No but both play an equal part in special types of relationships. There are different types of devotion just like different types of passion. Where is the boundary between an idolizing devotion and the type of adoration that some relationships have to have to survive? I think it comes down to something shared by both people as opposed to an emotion that one has for another that may leave the one being adored feeling cold and set apart when what they really want is to share the emotions and passion with the other person. A partnership instead of a separation. A safe place for both. Once that goal is reached, it should sustain that sharing of emotion and passion even when one may be feeling a little apprehensive as long as we don't let it get the best of us and ruin the feelings of safety that are shared.

Some relationships require passion to grow because complacency often breeds other negative emotions. It's hard to follow the leader if they're not going anywhere. Or they are trying to follow you instead of taking the role and inspiring you with hope and trust in them. It's hard to find the balance of equal roles in a relationship, considering each other's personalities while maintaining a healthy level of submission. I guess another feeling that comes into play here is confidence. Security. Respect. So, yeah, there it is.

Where am I going with this? Relationships are about a healthy balance of responsiblilities, passion, desire, consideration, and trustworthiness all tempered and screened by God's word. But they don't just happen. Doors may open on opportunites for relationships of all kinds. Do some relationships preclude others? Yes. We have to make decisions and take action to build them as well as maintain them. And we can say whatever we want to but the real proof is in the way we carry it through. Our actions. There's an old addage along those lines. Maybe you've heard it.

A new (sort of) beginning

There are two types of people in this world...those who dream and hope for things to happen and those who make things happen. In the past, I've been one of the former in a lot of situations. But lately, I've begun to feel that, while I've done and experienced many things in my life, if I had taken a few small steps, I could have done so much more.

One example of this is my desire to have a small green house or high tunnel. I've been dreaming about one for a long time and have actually drafted plans for one made of recycled glass. The problem was that I needed help and materials to build it. And mostly, if I had one, I didn't have the other. Too often, I allow my lack of ability to have/make things following my idea of the perfect solution to keep me from having it at all. So, this year, after seeing a very ambitious and inventive young friend pull a simple but effective one together, I'm inspired! There are a couple ways to start. Being the pack rat that I am(much to my husband's chagrin), I have some things on hand that may work very well.

For starters, we have a very nice dog kennel that we use once or twice each year if we're away over night or if we have a batch of new peeps. So, why not make it useful for a longer period of time? The changes required to make it into a green house would only add to it's usefulness for our dog and chickens. And it would still be movable so we wouldn't have to worry about having a mess inside.

When our well pump was pulled and replaced, they also replaced the long, black, well pipe. Instead of throwing it away, I've used sections from it to make mini plastic tunnels over early garden beds in the past. They work very well on raised beds. But we have enough left to make a hoop roof over the dog kennel that would allow the rain to run off.

Years ago, we had a small metal shed that collaped under the weight of a very heavy snowfall. Rather than throw the parts away, we've used the panels to put a roof on our treehouse, cover wood piles and make a small removable roof for our maple sugar evaporator in case we get caught in the rain before we reached the syrup stage. The skeleton from this shed has been lying around behind the garage and I've been threatened more than once that it was going to disappear! The ribs from the roof of the shed made great strengthening beams for the black plastic hoops, just the right length! Now we have a roof frame and need to cover it with clear plastic.

I have some older wooden tables that I used in my craft tent years ago. If I cover them with plastic, using them in the greenhouse won't hurt them. Now we have to put it all together. My oldest daughter has been helping me and we hope to finish it in the next few days. She's been taking step by step pictures.

We need to figure out how to regulate the heat. I'd like to make a vent in the roof or on the sides of the hoop roof that we can open and close easily.

Because we have a roll of plastic from making the mini tunnels, I think we can build this green house with little or no outside cost by putting things we already have on hand to better use and recycling things I've salvaged or scrounged. A very satisfying feeling.

April 4, 2010

Maple sugaring

As temperatures range above freezing both night and day, the buds on the sugar maples begin to swell with life. The energy for this life is found in the sugary sap that has been flowing up and down through the trees for about 6 weeks now. The swelling of the maple buds is an indication that the trees have used up the sweet stores of nutrients that have been growing in their roots all winter. It's also the signal of the end of sugaring for this year.
Our sugaring season was shorter than I had hoped for but I welcome the advent of the gardening season. We pulled all the taps and washed out the buckets, ready for next year.

As we checked our taps in the last couple weeks, I noticed the wild leeks peeking out of the leaves and quickly growing green tops. Soon the bulbs will swell and it will be time for our first batch of vichyssoise; an eagerly anticipated event at out house! Fishing season comes in this month and nothing goes with fresh trout better than vichyssoise! So as one season within a season passes, another one is quick on it's heals.

April 3, 2010

The bluebirds are here!

Over the years we've placed bluebird boxes in different locations around our yard and woods. The boy scouts build them and having had a few nephews and friends ago through the program, we've picked up a few. As spring arrived we'd watch anxiously for the bluebirds to come back and then, with disappointment, see them pause for a day or two, then move on.

This year I'd almost given up hope of providing the nesting location they were looking for. I saw a flash of blue outside my kitchen window and thought it might be an indigo bunting. It was a male bluebird!! He purched thoughtfully on the clothesline pole, checking out the area. Figuring that would be the one and only time I'd see him this year, I watched to see what he'd do next. He flew over to the bluebird box on the trellis in my kitchen garden and looked inside. Then he quickly flew away. I went out to look in the box and cleaned out the debris left from last years wrens hoping he'd be back.
My youngest daughter called me to tell me that she'd seen him on the clotheslines pole again and this time he was carrying a blade of grass. He took it to the box and went inside! He brought his wife and we've been watching them build their nest and enjoying hearing their songs right outside the kitchen window.
What fun it will be to watch their family grow!

Next on the list is a feeder to get the scarlet tanagers to come closer.

April 1, 2010

One crazy week!!

This week has been full of a lot of out of the ordinary events. On top of a pile of other trials, it was just about more than I could handle... alone. For awhile, I lost my focus and began to panic but realized that I needed to get a grip so I could move on.

In the midst of the worst of the events, God sent me a bit of a reprieve with a nice surprise. I think it was His way of showing me that there is always hope. As I tried to put things in the proper perspective, I realized that all the important things are fine and the events that put me over the top are important but not as important as I was making them.

Tomorrow is Good Friday. When I think of what He did for me on that day long ago, how can I even think that I have anything to worry about?

He's always looking out for me and will take care of me wherever I am. And whatever circumstances come into my life, the will of God will never lead me to a place where His grace can't keep me. For that, I am eternally thankful.

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