Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thankful Thursdays- 2/28/13- Apple Family Farm

We are about to celebrate 11 years of being thankful for Apple Family Farm. They have been an integral part of our lives for a long time. When we first started going to the farm for grass-fed beef, our girls were almost 2 and 4. Wow, that was a long time ago!

Mark runs the farm, with the help of his lovely wife, Nora, and an assortment of volunteers, interns, and  like-minded individuals. They raise Scottish- Highland cattle for beef. (Think- orange yaks!) They are big and fuzzy, and one of our favorites has one horn that points up, and one that points down. The babies are little fuzz balls. They also raise Dutch-belted dairy cows (think-oreo sandwich on legs!) When the two breeds cross, which has happened, you get all sorts of cute, fuzzy, funny colered babies. some look like vanilla oreos, some like they sat in paint, some are all black, but super fuzzy.
When it is really cold out, the babies get to stay in the barn



Going to the farm every week has been a great learning experience for our girls. We go every week because we own a cow-share and get fresh milk from our cow every week. The milk is scrumptious, and the health benefits are amazing, especially for Kurt & Emily who both have psoriasis and have problems digesting processed milk. We sometimes use our milk to make butter or ice cream, but for the most part, we just drink it.

Mark and Nora are not just our farmers, they are our dear friends. We love just hanging out and talking, or going someplace fun with them. Mostly, we love them for their hearts. They have chosen a life of servanthood. Taking care of a farm, especially a dairy farm, is full-time (plus) work! Mark goes out to care for the animals every day, even on the days the rest of us hide out indoors. But it is not ALL work. You can see some amazing things at the farm. Like baby animals, wild flowers, HUGE tomato plants, and stunning sunsets.


Whenever someone asks where to get quality, grass-fed, hormone-free meat, we point them to Apple Family Farm. Mark and Nora would love to share their love of cows (& good food) with you too! You can always visit  their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Apple-Family-Farm, or call them: 317-335-3067. They are located between McCordsville and Fortville at: 3365 W SR 234, McCordsville, IN 46055.

If you live too far away to come visit, hopefully you can find a local farm near you to be thankful for!

Contentment


Proverbs 19:23 states: “The fear of the LORD leads to life; Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” 

How are you doing on being content? If you find yourself struggling to find contentment, let me encourage you to go back to the beginning of the verse... “The fear of the LORD leads to life.” Also, notice that the verse does not say we won’t have trouble, or we won’t be surrounded by trouble, it says we will be untouched by trouble. The trouble will not be able to remove us from God’s hand.


Spend your time and effort on fearing (revering) the LORD. Don’t spend your time comparing your life to the lives of others whom you think have more stuff, a better marriage, a newer car, a longer vacation, smarter children,etc. 

I have days when I get sidetracked, and my contentment level plummets. I was thinking last week about how my life would be different (or how I thought it would be different) if I didn’t need to work outside the home. Often I’ve asked God about this situation. His usual response is “My grace is sufficient.” Maybe someday my situation will change, in the mean time, I need to be content with the job He has provided. I also need to be thankful to have a job that treats me well and allows a lot of flexibility when there are so many people without jobs.

We live in a world where we are constantly being bombarded with messages about ‘more stuff.” Perhaps what we need is less ‘stuff’ and more God. 

When Paul was writing to the Phillipians, he told them “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Him Who gives me strength.” At times I want to focus on the second part of Paul’s message, being able to do anything through Christ. BUT, I need to read in context and understand what Paul’s point was. I can be CONTENT through any situation because of Christ. The next time I am tempted to want something, to try to convince myself that my wants are needs, I should be turning to Christ for strength to be content in what God has already blessed me with.

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he said “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. I want that kind of contentment to rule in my life. I want to be able to distinguish between wants and needs, and allow God to change my heart so that I don’t have the desire for things that are outside of what HE wants me to have.

As we journey down this road together, let us encourage one another to look at our blessings, to focus our desires on God, not on things. Let us choose to desire a closer relationship with God over anything else. I pray that you are able to draw near to God and find contentment. Please pray the same for me.

Near the end of Hebrews I find great encouragement from these verses: ‘Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper; I will not be afraid.”’

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thankful Thursdays 2/21/13- Mounds State Park

Weather in Indiana is always changing. In the winter, it usually changes to something you don't want. So imagine our joy on Monday afternoon when it was 57 degrees outside. Yes, it was windy, but that 50+ degree weather enticed us to get outdoors. We ventured to one of our favorite hiking spots, Mounds State Park!

While Mounds remains the smallest of Indiana's state parks, at only 290 acres, it is full of great hiking trails and history.

The "Mounds" in the park are from the Adena-Hopewell tribe. Experts guess-timate they were built over 2000 years ago. Today if you visit the "Great Mound" you'll find a grouping of trees growing in the center area. It makes me think of the trees representing the Indians who once gathered there for their ceremonies and discussions.


If you would like to learn more about Mounds State Park, you can visit their webpage: http://www.moundsstatepark.org

If you purchase an annual pass to any of the Indiana State Parks, you can use it at Mounds. We buy our at Mounds and use it all over the state at other properties.


We saw lots of signs of Spring on our hike




 As always, Emily found cool rocks in the path. She was only a little disappointed whe I reminded her to leave them there. She said it helped her to think that someone else would get to see them too.

 We love the trees that grow in the undercanopy near the White River. We call these ones 'paper trees' because we always seem to forget their real name. They are especially fun to see because they don't lose their leaves until the new ones come out in the Spring.



Down in the ravines you could still see the snow and ice. (It was only 28 degrees on Sunday!)

I love seeing the sun break through the clouds and illuminate the trees along the river.

 Even in the Winter you can enjoy the sounds of the river washing over the rocks.


Here's the 'wrong end' of the woodpecker that was traveling the river path with us. How many of you can identify it without any help?

This chubby little guy was content to perch and munch as we went by.

Mom, is this your favorite place to take our picture? You took it here on our last hike... (Don't they look thrilled!)

Overall, it was a wonderful 2 hours of hiking and enjoying the beauty that God has created. So once again, we are thankful for Mounds State Park (and warmth!)



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gardening 201- Winter Sowing

You've chosen seeds, you have a great idea about where to put your garden...but what? It's only 11 degrees outside? (Or twenty, or forty.)

Never fear, enter winter-sowing! We live in Indiana. Where most people don't get enough sunlight in the winter, and it can be really difficult to start seeds indoor without grow-lights. So what to do, what to do? 


Last winter my friend introduced me to a great blog "A Garden for the House." Kevin has WAY more time than I have, for cooking, blogging, & gardening, but I love his advice on winter-sowing. You can go directly there from this link if you still have questions when I'm finished today: http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/category/gardening/winter-sowing/


The general idea is this: start your seeds outdoors, in little greenhouses made of recycled milk-jugs. Since it'll be too cold for anything to grow for a little while, they'll just sit and wait. Once it starts to warm up outside, your seeds will be already to go, you'll just need to keep an eye on when they need water.



Here's last year's lettuce on March 16th

By the end of March it was already big enough to eat! Our "frost-free" date here is May 1st, so we were WAY ahead of the game.
We did this for the first time last year and had the best tomato starts I have ever gotten from seeds. Short and stocky!


Now I'm going to show you how I winter-sow. I do it a little differently than on agardenforthehouse, but it's just a few tweeks of my own.
First- save LOTS of empty (washed out) milk and OJ jugs! We had 28 so far, but I'll probably end up starting 40 mini greenhouses total this year, so I'll keep saving them!

Next up, gather your supplies: you'll need: jugs, a tray to pot on, some newspaper to catch your mess, seeds, potting soil, a BLACK sharpie, duck tape, a sturdy knife & kitchen scissors. An empty box to put down when you are cutting is a plus.

Then, punch at least 4 drainage holes inthe bottom of each jug (do this first to ALL of them so you won't forget it!) I punch the knife in, and then twist it. It makes a hole about the size of a writing pen.


After that, you'll need to use your sturdy knife to cut a slit in one side, I like to put it in the middle of a side that adjoins the handle. Do this step for several jugs at a time, them move to the next step.



The following step is to use your scissors to make the slit wrap around all but the part under the handle, this will be your hinge!

Now to the messy part. Mix up your potting soil nice and muddy. On days when the weather breaks, I do this outside in a 5 gallon bucket. But since it was 45 and windy, I did it inside in an old ice cream bucket.

Now put soil in the bottom about 2-3" deep and plant your seeds according to the package. For small things like lettuce, you can plant a few dozen per jug. For plants you want to grow big and stocky (like tomatoes) limit yourself to 4 per jug. When they get big enough to outgrow the jug, I'll show you how to transplant them!


Use your duck tape (whatever color you have on hand) to tape shut the two sides opposite the handle-hinge. Notice the drip-tray to catch (at least most of) the wet, soggy soil leaking out the drainage holes!



LABEL, LABEL, LABEL! Use a black sharpie (other colors fade too soon) and mark what you planted in each jug & the date you planted it. After all, those tomato plants are all going to look when they are still small!

Finally, put your jug greenhouses outside in your garden spot (whether it's ready yet or not!) 

Today I only started 10 greenhouses, but I didn't want to go dig in the garage for more potting soil, so the next time it's warm(er) out, I'll get a lot more started. 


Don't be discouraged if you aren't ready for this because you don't have your seeds yet. It will still be helpful to start your plants in March or April the same way. I'm starting mine now for 2 main reasons: 1- I want fresh lettuce ASAP, & 2- I'll be doing a lot of these, so spreading them out makes it more enjoyable!


Dreaming of fresh tomatoes!
Thanks to Arlene for being my photographer for the day!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The snowflake

It started with just a snowflake or two, lazily drifting down. If it weren't for the dark trunk of the oak tree outside the window, I might not have even seen it. The snowflake was not in a hurry. 

Was I in a hurry? Maybe just a little. I had an appointment to take my vehicle into the shop to get an oil leak fixed. I still had a few minutes to spare, so I watched the snowflake on its lazy descent. 

Then I said goodbye to the kids & my husband and got in the truck. After having read Diana Waring's blog posts this week about the 'scenic route' through history, I decided to take the scenic route to the shop.

The snowflake had been joined by some others. Not a lot, but just enough to make a hazy view across the fields (the kind that makes you wish you had your camera!) The snow continued on its path, putting a light dusting on the miniature trees in the front lot of the Christmas Tree Farm, and coating the trees that hung out over the river on the back side of the state park.

God was reminding me that not all of my life needs be a race. Sprinting sometimes is necessary, but mostly the journey is one step in front of the other. 

On the ride home, the courtesy shuttle went through town. Stop lights, traffic, the ususal.

But I had seen a glimpse of peace. The simple joy of watching the snow fall. Today, I'll choose to remember that snowflake, and that God is with me, longing to grant me His peace.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thankful Thursdays-2/14/13 - My husband Kurt

Today (and everyday) I am thankful for my husband Kurt. Many people I know will be celebrating Valentine's Day today. I celebrate it every day in my heart. I do not need overpriced flowers or chocolates. (Although we ALL know how much I like chocolate! LOL!) I don't need a night out on the town to know how much Kurt loves me. He expresses it every morning when he gets up and goes to work to provide for our family. My husband loves Jesus, loves me, and loves our daughters ferociously.

When I first met Kurt over 20 years ago, I was pretty sure he was the 'weirdest' person I had ever met. By now, I'm sure of it, and I love him all the more for NOT being just like everyone else. We have been through a lot in the past almost 19 years of marriage. Good times, hard times, struggling times, victorious times. God has always proved Himself faithful to hold us together. The world can pull and tug on our affections and our time. But Kurt holds that special place in my heart, and Jesus holds us both.

What makes a strong marriage? Trials. 

Trials are opportunities to allow God to work through each of us, to reveal HIS power, not our own. Knowing that the only lasting hope for us is Jesus requires us to think of the other person first. Do we always do that? No. Do we try? Yes. Sometimes we struggle and fail, then we say we're sorry. (There's nothing quite so powerful as that first make-up kiss.)



We don't live a normal life. During almost all of our married life, Kurt and I have worked opposite shifts. This presents both unique challenges and unique blessings. It requires us to keep a schedule of who should be where when, and what the girls will be doing each day, or who they will be spending time with. It has allowed us to follow God's call to Home Educate our girls. Emily and Arlene have had to learn to be responsible for their own education, to follow their plan for the day even if Mom or Dad is still asleep when it's time to start the day. That is a blessing that they have been learning for many years, while I see some of their friends still have not learned it.

Living this life has taught us to treasure the time we DO have together as husband and wife. Both Kurt and I have our own individual hobbies and recreation as well as things we enjoy doing together. That ability to enjoy ourselves whether together or separate allows us to keep an even keel on the boat of our family. Kurt loves football. Especially Steelers football. I love Steelers Football too, but the rest of the weekend? You'll find me out in the garden, or baking something, or writing a book review. Kurt is NOT a fan of yardwork. Don't get me wrong, he loves being outdoors, he just doesn't want to plant, weed, harvest, etc. I find great solace for my soul when I spend time in my gardens. God can speak to me in ways that I am often too busy to listen to outside of the garden. We both enjoy walks through the woods, or on the beach.



 I am thankful for my husband, he encourages me to follow where God leads. He really does try to not complain about my wanderings on the path! He is strong, brave, and loving. I don't need a Valentine, I have my soul-mate!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Reunion by Rachael McIntire

The Reunion is a short novel/ long short story by Rachael McIntire about God at work in the lives of the Gladstone family members. Because I don't want to spoil the plot line for you, I'll keep this brief.

Ever had a day where you just want to sit down and read a book to relax? You know, the days where you've already done loads of laundry, or graded lots of math lessons, or cleaned the WHOLE house? I think a lot of us have those days. The problem arises when you're trying to find something to do to relax, that won't take up the whole night, or leave you feeling defeated because the story wasn't as good as you had hoped. I tend to stick with authors I already know, or that a friend recommended, because there is just too much BAD literature out there right now. 

This is the first story I've read by Rachael McIntire. She originally wrote the story for her six home-schooled children in 1982. It was purposely written to encourage and entertain, while reinforcing important priciples from God's word. Either you or your own children can read this delightful story without fear of finding questionable material. I enjoyed the fact that it was set in a time before technology took over our daily lives. The Gladstone family's faith in Christ is refreshing, and a great reminder that God already knows the desires of our hearts. It is up to us to follow His leading.

This story would make a great family-time read-aloud. Although the story was written about an earlier time, the characters face many of the same tough decisions we face today. Being able to discuss these challenges with your own children in a precious blessing not to be lightly overlooked.

You can order your own copy of this charming story from Elisha Press for only $9.99 at http://thereunionstory.com If you order before the end of February, use the discount code "REVIEW-CAROL" and save $2 off of each copy. If you order after March 1st, the discount will be $1. 

I really enjoyed the plot twist near the end of the story, after you've read it, let me know what you thought of the twist!

I received a complimentary copy of "The Reunion, a novel" by Rachael McIntire in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology

If it has been a while since "science class" was fun at your house, maybe you need a new science book! While science was usually easy for us to cover when the girls were young, and High School -level science  for Emily is full of experiments, we were stagnant with Arlene's Jr High -level science.



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Enter Apologia's "Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology" book, journal & mp3's. Arlene is a hands-on and auditory learner, so just reading a typical science textbook with lots of chapter questions was boring with a capital B. While this book by Jeannie Fulbright is geared towards 4th-6th graders, we have found it to be excellent for 7th grade as well. It pairs quite well with what we are studying this semester at Classical Conversations (human body systems.) So well, in fact, that one of the other Moms in our CC group said she had pulled it out to review with her daughter who had used the book last year. Great minds think alike.


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The textbook (dare I call it that, it isn't boring like a lot of other textbooks,) is great by itself, but even better when you pair it with the notebooking journal. Arlene used the regular journal. If you're wanting to use the book with children of differing ages, there is also the option of the "junior notebooking journal" geared for the younger ones. Some of the obvious differences between the two are that the Jr journal has the copywork in manuscript instead of cursive, and a lot more "coloring" activities instead of "write what you remember" activities.


Every two or three pages throughout the text you will either find a "Try This" activity, or an Experiment at the end of the lesson (chapter.) Arlene assured me that she did NOT need to do the 'Analyzing a Chicken Bone' experiment at the end of chapter two. In her defense, we had just spent the past week cooking & deboning chickens-LOL!


The mp3 Audio Book is an added bonus for auditory learners, or just reviewing again what you have covered. If your child is not a strong reader, they may prefer to listen to the text before writing anything in their journals. It is divided up with a track for each section, so it is easy to listen, pause, write or draw, and then listen again. 


Let me put the prices in perspective. The textbook is $39. A fair price for a solid book that can be reused with multiple children. Both the regular and junior notebooking journals sell for $24 each. While they aren't required for use with the textbook, they DO greatly enhance retention. Since Arlene likes to draw a lot, having a notebooking journal has really helped her stay focused without being distracted. The mp3 Audio Book is $29. While it is easy enough to listen to from your computer, it is also easy to download to an mp3 player [then your highly-distractable child can stay in their science world while you work on something else (like maybe math) with another child.] Sometimes the money spent is not only an investment in the child, but in Mom's stress level as well.



The mummification of the apple in the beginning of chapter one was funny to me. Although it gave Arlene a great idea of 'preserving,' I think she would have rather just eaten the apples. (It DID look weird!)













The edible cell project at the end of Chapter 1 was our favorite one so far. We had to adjust it some because I was going to be gone at work the following day (and I don't think Arlene trusted Daddy with her candy.) So instead of waiting a day & cutting out the areas for the cell parts, Arlene timed the jello as it was setting & shoved the pieces in as it started to harden. It probably would have been prettier if done over two days, but Arlene was able to use it to identify the cell parts to Daddy's satisfaction. (Yes, I know it called for yellow jello, but we already had orange!)




 The edible cell just after hardening













The 'cell' waiting to be disected and shared!

Apologia, Exploring Creation Series, Anatomy & Physiology

No more boring science class. Just a lot of fun learning around here with Apologia!


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 To read what other members of the Crew thought of this set, or the other Apologia science books they reviewed, click on the banner below.

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

These Happy Golden Years giveaway

This week was the anniversary of Laura Ingalls Wilder's birth. I am sure many of you have read at least one of her books, either as a young child, or with your own children. These were favorites of our girls when they were younger, and I often find them re-reading them still today.

To celebrate Laura's birthday, we're giving away a Full-color collector's edition softcover of "These Happy Golden Years" to one of our readers. The only limitation is that is must be shipped to a US address (APO/FPO addresses are ok too!) 

So if you would like to win a copy, for yourself, or someone you love, click the punchtab box below and get started entering!

Tell your friends to come on over and register too! (The more participation we get, the sooner we will have another giveaway!)

Don't forget to "like" our fb page for an additional entry.

You've only got a week until the contest ends, so get going!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thankful Thursdays- 2/7/2013- Grace

Grace is something I need to be thankful for every day. I have been saved by grace, and I am learning to extend grace to others. Somthing I just recently realized is: we can extend grace to ourselves.

The dictionary definition of grace is this: the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
Maybe our definition needs to be this: the free giving of blessings and/or forgiveness as the situation or person requires.

Perhaps you're like me, and not everything turns out exactly as you had planned. Maybe the peppers your family was looking forward to from the garden died in the drought. Or maybe dinner wasn't ready until MUCH later than you had planned. Did it take you longer than you thought it would to learn how to :_______ (blog, do taxes, sew on a button, iron your husband's dress shirt, finish the dishes, teach your child to read, etc?!?)

Extend a measure of grace to yourself. When we give ourselves grace we are NOT saying it is OK to fail or to be lazy. What we ARE saying is that we are works in progress. The apostle Paul reminds us in Phillipians 1 that "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." If Paul could realize that God is still at work in our lives, shouldn't I be able to realize the same thing?

When I extend grace to myself, I find hope to try again. Or, I find hope that there is another, better, God-ordained option for my life than the one I am currently trying. 

My life can be shallow, painful, bitter, and negative, BUT that is NOT the life I want to live!!! When I extend grace to myself (and others) I find a life that is full, joyful, filled with praise, abundantly blessed, full of healthy relationships--- THAT is the kind of life I want!!!

Today, if you are living what seems to be the shallow, painful life, extend to yourself some grace. It is often easier to extend grace to others, but we need it in our own lives as well. If God is willing to forgive you of your confessed sins and shortcomings, shouldn't you be willing to forgive yourself???

Choose to be thankful for grace. Choose to life the abundant, work-in-progress life!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Gardening 104- Junk mail and Gardening

This may seem like a strange connection to you, but I'll tell you how junk mail helps us garden. Maybe you'll want to try it too!

See these lovely shreddings? They will be put to good use in our garden. In the Winter months, the junk mail shreds are used as a topping for the compost pile. (Because face it, NO ONE wants to go out and try to pull weeds to cover up the fruit and vegetable scraps from the compost pail!) Every few days the compost pail gets full, every few days someone shreds some of the junk mail in the bucket, then...a trip out to the compost pile is in order!

Taking out the compost pail is one of Emily's jobs. Usually shredding the junk mail is too. We try to work together around here, so oftentimes Arlene or Daddy will help Emily cut the windows out of the envelopes (for the trash) while they're watching sports together on tv.


During the Spring those shreddings will also be used to help keep down weeds. If there is an area I didn't get weeded the fall before, I'll toss some shreddings down to slow the spring weed growth until I can get to that area. They'll help slow the weeds, and start to decompose. When I get the area weeded, they'll end up (mostly) getting tossed in the compost pile with the weeds. I also have used them underneath the pretty mulch in the pathways to help keep down the weeds. They can clump back together when it rains, so if you're using them for weed control/ mulch, you need to be careful how thick of a layer you use around the plants that you WANT to get the water to.


We try to garden as inexpensively as possible. After all, part of our reason for gardening is to save money. Maybe you're a little hesitant to use shreddings for mulch, that is OK. I would like you to consider using them to top your compost pile. After all, no one wants a bunch of critters pulling vegetable scraps all over threir yard do they?


Next time, we'll share pictures of our first round of Winter-Sowing seeds. Looking forward to seeing you again then!