May 30, 2010

Finding the Joy.

Ever wonder why it's so hard to find the joy in life?  I think it has a lot to do with our perspective.  Sure, life holds many trials and hardships that seem difficult to rise above.  But I think it also depends a great deal on where our hope comes from.  If you've ever spent time with a cheerful person, you know what I mean.  There is something radiating from them that just makes you want to have whatever it is that gives them that joy.
We can plod along in our own little sphere of life thinking that we are secure because of believing certain things or growing up with knowledge that should or could give us the hope and joy we need but we rest there on the knowing part, thinking that we're right where we need to be.  But, we don't make it our own so we can't feel it.  We know it's out there, and we want to be "normal" but it's just beyond our reach.  Even our enemies believe the same things we do but they certainly don't take ownership of it.  They continually fight against what they know is true in order to overcome it and steal the joy...or keep others from finding it.
Where does your joy come from?  Can you see it but can't really feel it?  Step out of your box and make what you talk about into something of your very own.  Find your joy.  Then you will look at things in a different light.  Imagine how much better the good things in your life will be if you can view the world through a lens of joy that colors even you trials with hope and happiness.
And then share it with others... help them find their joy.  In doing so, your own joy will deepen and grow stronger.  When your joy flows into every aspect of your life, you'll find that it begins to reflect back at you.  It's a cycle that continues to increase in strength until people wonder what you have that they don't and they want to know the joy you've found. 
We're human so of course there will be times when we are discouraged and feel like we can't feel the joy.  But those times should not be the norm.  If you think you've found your joy, ask yourself, "Can others see the joy in me?"  "Do I cheer others or encourage them because the joy I've found is so strong that it flows out into all areas of my life?"  Or is it the best kept secret around?  Are you often gloomy and the victim of circumstances (even little ones) that continually overwhelm you, bringing you down and, consequently, those around you?  If that's true, maybe you need to ask yourself a different question.  "Do I really have the joy or is it a phenomenon that I know exists but I haven't accepted for my very own?"

May 24, 2010

Life is funny sometimes.  Just when you think you know the direction you're heading, something happens to turn the tide or make you rethink things.  I wonder what's next?


We love bagels!  Expecially everything bagels with cream cheese.  I decided to try making them at home.  They are delicious and so easy.  There are tons of recipes online so I won't type one out here but you should try making them yourself. 
The recipe I chose did not call for eggs so the result was a little lighter than traditional store bought bagels but I didn't mind.  We topped ours with poppy seeds, dried minced onions, sesame seeds, kosher salt and a little garlic powder (dried minced garlic would work better).

Last week we did a little work in the garden.  I'm going to put down more cardboard and make my lasagne beds on top.  I hope it works!  We have lots of composted leaves. some chicken litter and additional dirt to mix with grass clippings...maybe some peat moss.  Should be interesting.

Tom's on vacation for a few days this week and we're going to work on the garden and a few other jobs that need to be done outside. 

The rhubarb is looking very happy now that we've put cardboard down and mulched with straw.  Now to pick some strawberries to go with it.  The green house plants seem to be happy as well.  Some of the seeds that didn't germinate in the house are coming up now.  Even one of the husk tomatoes.  Overall, the plants are doing well but I don't think I'll use peat pots again.  Most of the seeds were started in plastic packs with a soil blend.  In an effort to eliminate the plastic (which were all recycled), I thought the peat pots would be a "green" choice.  They dry out so quickly.

We did a little wildcrafting last week and decided to try drying our harvest in the greenhouse.  We used an old screen door on top of the screen "ceiling" in the warmest part of the greenhouse.  It worked very well!  Ideally, they should have been dried in the dark but because the drying happened so quickly, I think it will be fine.

I spent a little time in the woods with the girls over the weekend.  It wasn't a long time but we'll take it. We don't have as much time as we used to to do things like that. Everything is so green and there are plants growing there that I have never noticed in our woods before.  It's amazing when you stop to notice just how many different kinds of plants there are growing in one little area.  Identifying them is fun but I'm not experienced enough the feel confident that I'm making a definite identification on a few of them.

One of my favorite is chickweed.  Stellaria spp.  This year it is thriving!  I like to add the aerial parts of chickweed, S. media, to my herbal healing salve for it's drawing properties.  It's still used today for eczema and skin irritations.  In Europe, it's a traditional folk remedy, mainly taken internally as a cleansing diuretic and tonic for rheumatic pains and weakness. Chickweed was traditonally harvested as a vegetable and is loaded with vitamins A, B and C, minerals and fatty acids. Harvest through out the growing period.  The root of S. dichtoma was used as a tonic for malnourished children and a free food in European rurals areas during hard times.  (Taken from The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ode) 

May 16, 2010

Scenes from the homestead

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Working toward the goal

The weather here in Central Pa was beautiful yesterday!  We did some tidying, dusting sweeping and mopping in the morning but spent the afternoon outside preparing the garden.  All the seedling flats have been moved to the greenhouse now.  The only seeds that didn't germinate were the husk tomotoes.  We had to replant some of the things because the seeds were from 2008 but now most seem to have come up.  The tomatoes are going to be so much fun!  We have a variety of colors and sizes with lots of the old paste tomato standbys for sauce.
The raspberry patches need some attention so we started cutting out the old canes and next week we'll move some of the volunteers back into the beds.  We have four beds; two red, one golden and one black.  Now's the time to harvest red raspberry leaves for tea. 
I'd like to put in some strawberries but I think it's too late this year. 
Radishes, leeks and swiss chard are growing in the kitchen garden along with some volunteer bok choy that didn't grow last year.  The kitchen garden is home to some of my herbs like lemon balm, lemon thyme, bee balm, horehound, a variety of mints, black cohosh, comfrey, lavender, chives, tansy and lady's mantle.  To these will be added annual herbs like basil for pesto, lettuce, a few fun tomatoes to pick and eat on the spot and  who knows what else.  The first batch of some of the perennial herbs are ready to harvest.
My dandelion wine is about ready to be bottled with breather tubes for a while and then corked and put in storage until Thanksgiving.  It's great for catching a virus in the early stages or a minimal daily dose to cleanse the liver.  The taste is nutty and fruity but mild.
Spring is a great time to begin wildcrafting, too.  The dandelions and coltsfoot were just the beginning.  It's so much fun to go out in the meadow and woodlands to see what's growing there that I can use.  Plantain, self-heal, stinging nettle, cleavers, chickweed...

My girls are so much help and I appreciate them so much.  They both love working in the garden with me and watching things grow.  Both like to cook but I think the youngest is a little more interested while the older one loves working with herbs and creating remedies and personal care items like scents, powders and lotions.  We've a batch of first aide salve in the works. 

June is going to be crazy!  We have a wedding to start off the month, E's beau coming for a visit, finishing work in the garden, Bible school prep and a week of VBS, and then zip! June is over.  July is still up in the air but part of it will be getting E ready for college in the fall and possibly an exciting trip for her which will last over half the month.  Then we'll have just a couple weeks before she's off.  Not looking forward to that day. Where has the time gone?  I will miss her so much!

May 12, 2010

On today's list...

Well, one teen feeling better and back to work and one who's gone back to bed to sleep off the effects of the current viral bug.  Part of me suspects the lack of desire to work on school projects but I can see that she's not feeling well.

Today I need to catch up on a few things like making laundry soap so I can keep up with the clothes, more cleansing facial mask, a batch of first aide salve, clean the refrigerator, make a different variety of scones, flatbread, and yogurt.  Whoa, I'm feeling a little giddy.  What are the chances I'll accomplish all the things on my list.  Truthfully, poor to fair.  Mostly due to the fact that my remaining sick teen just came down looking miserable and wanting her mama.  Funny how they don't need us when they are on top of their game but it doesn't take much to reduce them to children who want our attention.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining at all.  They are growing up much too quickly for me so I'm happy to set the chores aside and do a little mothering while they still want it.  I've my suspicions that it won't be long until they don't want it, don't need it or are too far away for me to give it. 

Time for some hugs.  And some of that comfort food...for the kids of course. :) 

May 11, 2010

Projects in the works today

Sourdough, milk kefir, biscotti, Irish soda scones, corn flour crisps and lots of herbal tea.  Soup on the way.  And I'm finished for today.  That ought to be enough comfort food to get us through until Thursday at least. :)

It's that time of year again...

Time for spring colds that hang on and won't let go for weeks.  Knock on wood, it hasn't hit me and hopefully I can avoid it.  But my kids haven't been so fortunate.  So, today, I'm Doctor Mom and trying my best to find natural remedies and comfort foods that will kick this pesky springtime bug out for good. 

May 10, 2010

Time to "fess up"

For most of my adult life, I've had a secret.  One that plagues my husband and makes our home a little crazy at times.  Being a meanderer who often ponders things too much doesn't help.  It's sort of a sickness that I've been both secretly proud of and also ashamed of at some points in my life.  I'm sure that things would be a lot easier and simpler if I could overcome this obsession and just admit it...say it out loud...come clean...let go...easier said than done.  Much easier said than done.  And in some ways, I can see the practicality of both sides of the issue.  If put to the test, I could argue my point quite least in my own eyes.  But maybe if I write it down, I'll be able to either get past the feelings of guilt I'm having right now, or appease my mind enough to convince myself that I'm really being quite helpful, thrifty, green.  Maybe.

Here a packrat...there, I've said it.  When it comes time to throw some things away, I can usually see another use for them and dream up a plan to use them in the future.  My intensions are good, you see, but my "future" may be years away and it should become obvious how that could begin to be a problem.  Now I'm not like the folks who only have paths through their homes or anything like that and I don't have empty baked bean cans lying around or stacks of unused paper napkins that I've saved from restaurants but my attic and garage are loaded with good intentions.  Things I can use to "build" other things.  Future projects that need other components before they can be completed, things I just don't have time for right now and things I'll probably never get around to reusing.  That was painful to admit.

Of course you've heard the green motto, "Reduce, reuse, recycle."  And that's where some of my justification comes from.  Why throw away perfectly good things if you could use them to make something else that is quite useful and cost saving?   Why load up the land fills with things that will still be in the same shape when I'm dead and gone when I could reuse them to make things that I need?  It makes perfect me.  Now my husband is the type of guy who throws every thing away with the idea that if we need one again, we'll go buy one.  That is completely against my philosophy as a green mama. 

So I guess the compromise will have to be that I organize my stash into a more compact hoard and eliminate things that I've had on hand for years and have never used.  The only problem with that is...and I've had this happen before...within a month, I'll need the things I threw away and I'll be kicking myself!  Maybe what I need is a book that will guide my wandering mind with new ideas about reusing things so I don't have to throw them away.  That idea makes me smile and it's something I can live with.

Well, I'm glad I got that off my chest.  I feel as if my burden is a bit lighter now.  So...I'll wait for the next rainy day and dig into the black hole to unearth my saved treasures and hope that I don't see the reasons for saving all of them quite as clearly as I did originally.  'Cuz that could be a disaster!

May 7, 2010

A Very Special Day

Today is my daughter's birthday.  She's 19 now!  Wow!  Where has the time gone?

Looking back over the years, I'm so thankful for the bonds that we've forged and pray that they will always stay strong.  She's become such a lovely woman both inside and out.  This past year she's been forging ahead into new areas of her life with a nannying job, caring for 5 children and helping out a bit with their homeschooling.  Her earnings will help with college expenses and the experiences she's gained will last her a lifetime.  She's also been spending a few hours each week with a Korean family reading and singing with their little boys so they can hear english from a native tongue.  It's been so much fun for her and the boys are very eager to teach her about Korean customs and language, too.  In addition, she has been helping a lady with some light housekeeping but lately has been so busy that she hasn't been able to go very often.
There are some things she needs to do to prepare for college and some courses she'd like to CLEP in order to reduce her college costs and time by applying what she's already learned for college credit.

She's met a nice, young man who is VERY interested in getting to know her better and has been pursuing a long distance, courtship relationship with definite goals in mind.  Through all the trials and errors that accompany that type of relationship, they seem to have reached a point where they really need to spend some normal I-live-in-the-same-town time and they can hang out like traditional couples.  Perhaps this summer will provide some opportunites for them to do that. 

It's been such a joy to raise my children and watch them turn into wonderful, godly young ladies.  They share my love of outdoors and my somewhat tomboyish nature.  But I think it has helped to make them stronger both physically and spiritually.  By homeschooling them, we're been able to cover the requirements and go off on tangents to study things that interest them. 
As a result, she's spent time as an intern on a local sustainable farm, participated in mission activities, pursued her interest in drama by participating in our community theater and church drama from stage to costuming and props and reenactments from creating costumes to setting up camp and cooking over a fire.  She's given demonstrations to groups of homeschool and private school students, developed her artistic talents, learned to knit, sew, garden, attended naturalist classes at one of our local state parks, learned to make herbal remedies, soap, cheese, wine and a host of other skills that will help her to raise a healthy family.  She has a lovely singing voice and has taken violin lessons as well as tinkered with cello and her dulcimer.  I've yet to see her sit down for any length of time without having something in her hand to work on...knitting, sketching, beading, weaving on her inkle loom, designing clothing.......right now she's working on weaving a basket!
Through all our sustainable learning, she's become quite a green individual, striving to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as she can.  
All in all, I'd say she's a very well rounded, spiritually sound, young lady who is capable of handling the next phases of her life...except maybe the young man!   I think he has his work cut out for him! :)

May 6, 2010

At the link below, you'll find 20 reasons why real butter, made from raw milk is better for you than the alternatives.  Natural butter is hard to find in the store but it's easy to make at home.  If you don't have a butter churn, simply skim the cream from your raw milk, pour it into a quart jar, put the lid on tight and shake!  It's a good job for children.  If you get tired shaking, find a partner and roll the jar back and forth on the floor.  Just keep it agitated until it turns into whipped cream and then separtes again into buttermilk and butter.  When the butter clumps together, pour out the buttermilk and save for other recipes or to drink.  Add cold water to the jar and shake some more to wash out all the remaining liquid (which will sour the butter).  Add a little salt and work with a paddle or wooden spoon on a wooden cutting board to make sure there are no pockets of liquid left over.  Viola!  You've just made your first batch of homemade butter!

To make cultured butter, allow the jar of cream to sit at room temp for 12-24 hours before you begin shaking or churning.

We have a glass butter churn with wooden paddles and we modified a deep crock with a wooden lid and a homemade "stomper" to churn our own butter.  We've done the canning jar method with the kids when they were little too.  I'll try to post pictures.


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May 5, 2010

May 3, 2010

Pondering produce choices

Eating healthy can be intimidating with all the choices out there.  Organic, free range, natural ingredients, non-GMO, 100% pure.  Even if you shop the perimeter of the store where the foods are displayed that are closest to their natural state, the choices are many.  Organic produce can be a big stumbling block, especially with todays inflated prices and reduced pocketbooks.  If you can only purchase a few kinds of produce from the organic aisle, take a look at the chart shown at the following link to make better choices about which kinds of produce have the least exposure to pesticides and chemicals.  The ones at the bottom of the scale (marked worst) are often referred to as the "dirty dozen" and if you're limited, at least try to purchase organic options for these foods.

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