Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tomato planting tips!

Well, I have been negligent in my blogging. I really wanted to keep track of my garden through my blog and share with others what I do.....just because people ask me a lot of questions, even though I consider myself a novice gardener.

Anyway, if you read my transplanting post, my seedlings have been inside up until a few weeks ago.  Once the weather started getting nice, I put them out during the day in a somewhat sheltered spot.  Make sure they are well-watered or they will dry out and wilt quickly in the sun!  Wind is a huge factor too....they can get wind-burned if you aren't careful.  Ask me how I know.

This week, I finally actually put my seedlings in my garden.  They were probably outside for 3 days, then back in for 5 days because it was pouring out.   Then the weather finally normalized and they were out for 5-7 days straight.  I left them out at night after that until I was ready to plant them. 

I wanted to document some things I have learned over the years about planting tomatoes. 

1)  Dig a hole about 8-12" deep.  Put a handful of Epsom Salt in the bottom of the hole.  I don't know what this does, but the one year I did it, I had fabulous tomato plants.  We'll see if it works again.

2) Snip off the lower branches of the seedling and plant all the way up to the remaining branches.  The plant will root all along the stem and this gives a nice deep root system to your plant.

3) Use sturdy tomato cages.  I have used cheap ones and they fall over.  I have built my own wooden ones, but if there is any disease in your soil or tomatoes, this will cause it to spread.  I have used single stakes but I felt like I was constantly trying to keep the tomato tied to the stake.  Use sturdy tomato cages.

4) Borage is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes.  I always try to plant some with my tomatoes and it seriously cuts down on Tomato Horn Worms!  I have had years where I have pulled up to 100 THW off of my plants, but every year I plant borage with my tomatoes, I have pulled off probably under 10!   

5) Mulch with hay or something similar around the base of your plants and bottom-water them.  Water splashing up from the soil can spread any diseases up into your plant!  Rain is fine, but if YOU are going to water, do it at the base, not with a sprinkler or from the top.  My garden is conveniently (inconveniently?) located next to my goat shed, so my plan is to pour out the leftover water each AM at the base of each tomato.  One year we (and everyone else, I think) had a MAJOR wilt problem.  We got zero tomatoes that year.  It was a very rainy summer and the water just splashed and spread the wilt up on the whole plant.  In subsequent years, the wilt remained in the soil.  I did a lot of research and found out how to curtail it; mulching and bottom-watering seem to be the trick.  I even started a new plot just to get my tomatoes into fresh soil.  This year I am going back into my old plot - after about 5 years and that many seasons of compost (and mulch and bottom-watering), I am hoping they will do well.

6) The last of my tomato tips.  One year it was pretty late in the season and all of my tomatoes stayed green.   I found out that if you cut a semi-circle into the soil, about 6-12" from the base of each plant, you can force the tomatoes to turn.  I would only do this if you have multiple fully-formed green tomatoes on your plant that have been that way for a looong time.  I am not sure if it would hinder the production of further fruit...but if everything is green and it's getting late in the season, you can do this multiple times to get the fruit to turn.  Don't cut all the way around the plant, and I wouldn't do it more than once a week or so.

That's all I have for now.  I hope to add pictures....maybe at some point.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Starting seeds and transplanting

I received free seeds from the URI cooperative extension.  Every year they give seeds (with financial help from Job Lot) to community and educational gardens.  Since I homeschool, we qualify as an educational garden....and I would say that it has been educational for my children.  They have all been interested and involved at some point in my gardens.

I started my seeds about mid-March.  I don't like to start them much earlier than 8 weeks before they can go out.   I usually start hardening the seedlings off around mid-May and get them in the ground the end of May or 1st week of June.  That might sound late, but I am paranoid that I will lose all of the time and investment in my seedlings by putting them out too soon.  I do direct-plant as soon as the charts say we have had our last frost, but for my seedlings, I wait.

I start my seeds in little "Jiffy" packs that you can buy at Walmart or Job Lot.   I just follow the directions on the box/kit.  I don't buy a kit every year, I just re-use the tray and buy new Jiffy pellets.  You soak the pellets and they expand to 1" netted soil chunks.  I put the seeds in each pellet and put the whole tray under a florescent work light on a shelf in my basement closet.  The light has one blue and one warm bulb.  I may eventually use two lights on different shelves or side by side.  I used pipe-cleaners to secure the light to the bottom of a metal shelf.

Just a florescent work light secured under a metal shelf.

I know they would germinate faster if they were warm.  I am thinking of buying a warming pad to put under them just for germination.  

Once the plants are large enough.  Which for me is about 4 weeks in for tomatoes, they are ready to transplant.   I have a picture of the tomatoes, but they are on another camera with dead batteries, I will add it later.

These are some herbs that I am starting.  I confess I have never had much success with herbs from seeds, but I think it was because the seeds are so small that i was afraid to thin them once they germinated.  I did thin these down to one plant by clipping away others with a pair of scissors.

I transplant my plants into plastic containers.  These are sour cream containers that I save for just this purpose. I washed all the containers with a little bit of bleach water to sterilize them.  I don't like peat pots because they wick-away the moisture from the soil.  I have used them several times and almost lost seedlings because they became too dried out.  The plastic keeps the soil and the plant moist for much longer.

I do put 2 holes in the bottom of each container for proper drainage. Also, write the name of the seedling on the container with a will not remember which is which of tomatoes and peppers, unless you plant all of the same kind (I have 3 kinds going.)

 I plop a seedling that is ready, right now just tomatoes, into each container and then fill around it with potting soil.   You can trim off the lower leaves on a tomato and cover the stem up to the first true leaves in soil.  Roots will come off the stem all the way down, giving your plant a good root system.   You can do this again when you put them in the ground.

Put a seedling in each container.

Fill around each seedling with potting soil. 

I put them in a larger container (I used a plastic salad container) to catch any drainage and to allow for bottom watering later on.   I watered them generously.

Put in drainage container and water generously.

And back under the light they go.

Put back under their light.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Chai

Well, I originally started making my own Chai from a "pin" that I saw, but now the link says that that page does not exist any more.  I guess credit isn't necessary because I have made so many changes to the recipe, but here's the link if it is ever working again.

The recipe was good, but it called for a lot of ground spices and loose tea which ended up as a big pile of sludge once you strained the tea.  It was actually difficult to strain.  It also called for a few whole spices, which were thrown away with the sludge spices.  I thought, what a waste, couldn't these spices be reused?  Well, yes, they can.  I have been using mostly whole spices in tea balls to make this recipe.  So far I have reused the whole spices in tea-balls about 5 times and the flavor is still good.  I rinse the tea-balls with clean water after each use.  Since the recipe does have milk, I don't want that sitting in with the spices.

So, this is how I make the perfect cup of Chai tea.

Place in pan on the stove:  4c. of milk and 3 c. of water.  Bring to a slow boil.  You should stir it often or the milk will start to stick to the bottom of the pan. 

Put into two tea-balls heaping portions of:
(The teaballs are those two little mesh things.  I got them at Walmart.)
1 tsp. of whole peppercorns
1 Tbsp. of whole cloves
1 tsp. of whole allspice
1 tsp-size chunk of peeled whole ginger root.

It doesn't matter which spices you put together, they just won't all fit in one tea-ball.  I'll be honest, I didn't really measure very well.  1 Tbsp of peppercorns was too peppery for me, so that I did decrease, I know.

Once the milk/water mixture is super hot, add:

5 Tbsp. sugar (you could decrease this and add another sweetener before drinking to your taste.)
4 regular teabags
1 tsp. cardamom (I didn't have this for a while and the Chai was okay, but it definitely is worth having.  It is very expensive, but I got some from Vitacost with my $10 refer a friend code.) 
1 tsp. cinnamon
The two tea-balls with whole spices in them.

 Keep it at a barely boil or low boil for about 5 - 6 minutes.  You want it really hot to get all the flavors. I tried making a single cup by pouring boiling water over the two tea-balls and adding lesser amounts of the other spices/sugar and the water just wasn't hot enough.

Pour the liquid through a strainer.  I'm not sure I really must do this anymore, I could just fish out the tea-balls and teabags and leave the cardamom and cinnamon in.  Rinse the tea-balls in water.  You may even want to carefully open them and rinse off the spices inside (I have not and it has been fine.)  I put the tea-balls with whole spices in a dry cup to use another time.  Throw away the teabags (I'm not that frugal.)

Drink your nice cup of hot Chai!  Enjoy!

You can put any extra Chai in a container in the fridge to heat and drink at another time, or share a cup with a friend. 

(An update:  I have been making this lately with just cloves and peppercorns in a teaball, then 1-2 t. ground cinnamon, and 1 heaping t. cardamom.  I have also been using Stevia instead of sugar.  A t. of vanilla is tasty too!  I have just been putting the pot of milk/water on the stove, throwing everything in and letting it simmer, stirring occasionally.  ) 

Here's the quick-look / print recipe:

Perfect Homemade Chai by Amy

Place in pan on the stove:
4 c. of milk
3 c. of water
Bring to a slow boil, keep stirring.

In two tea-balls place heaping portions of:
1 tsp. of whole peppercorns
1 Tbsp. of whole cloves
1 tsp. of whole allspice
1 tsp size chunk of peeled whole ginger root.

Once the milk/water mixture is super hot, add:
5 Tbsp. sugar  
4 regular teabags
1 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. cinnamon
The two tea-balls with whole spices in them.

Keep it at a barely boil or low boil for about 5 - 6 minutes. 

Pour the liquid through a strainer or fish out the tea-balls and teabags and leave the cardamom and cinnamon in.  Rinse the tea-balls in water.  Throw away the teabags.  Refrigerate any extra Chai and reheat as desired.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Early Garden

I want to document my garden /gardening this year.  I have a lot of people who ask me what I do for my garden.  They usually ask when it is in full-swing and then I can't even remember what I did and why.  Also, there is always some issue every year and if it recurs I like to know what I did about it in previous years!  So that's another good reason to document.  Be warned,  I don't do things necessarily the way most people do.

I started some seeds in early March (it is still early March).  I did take some pictures, but that camera is currently battery-dead so I will have to download and explain that in a later post.

Today is a glorious day, so I went out and turned over one garden and planted lettuce.  That is a "cold" crop, meaning it can handle a frost and is okay with cold (although I may put plastic or a fishtank over them to help germinate if this weather doesn't hold out.)  There are other cold crops - peas, spinach, cauliflower. etc. (mostly veggies my family won't eat.)  Check the back of the seed packet and it tells you whether you can plant in early spring before the last frost.

This is the garden that I have NOT turned over yet.

I cleaned out my goat shed this weekend and just plopped the piles in the planting areas of my garden.  The blue tarp is in the walkway.  This is how I compost.  I just stick the poo/hay/leaves/whatever organic material on my garden and ignore it.  I have some older piles from the fall clean out that have been breaking down all winter.

Below is the garden I turned over today.  It looked similar to the above, but the piles had decomposed almost completely into compost.   I turned over what was composted into the soil beneath and then raked the uncomposted material back into 2-3 piles.   Mostly hay that is still mucky.  This is similar to turning a compost pile.  It introduces air into pile and assists the composting process.  Those piles will most likely stay there and then be worked into the soil later, maybe even next growing season.   The piles in my above garden will breakdown quite a bit in the next 2-3 months and I will turn over those and rake up any uncomposted material in that garden in mid-May.

My reasons for composting this way are: 
a) The soil under the compost pile is always the best  and most productive soil.
b) I don't have to build any special structure to hold / maintain the compost.
c) I have so much organic material that I don't have to be selective about where I put it.
d) Turning over the compost is easier because you don't have to reach underneath it. You can just rake it to another area, leaving behind rich soil. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chicken Soup from Scratch (and other leftover chicken recipes)

My daughter is home from college and so I made a roast chicken last night for her.  Generally, the day after a roast-chicken, I make chicken soup.  Since a friend asked me recently what my "secret" was to making chicken soup.   I thought I would blog my process / recipe.

First, roast a chicken.   You could also roast split chicken breasts or thighs and legs.  Don't use boneless.   My personal theory is that the fat of the skin and the gelatin of the bones adds something to the broth.  There is no scientific support for this theory, but I do know that boneless chicken breasts do not make a good broth.  It also has a different quality if you just go straight to boiling it.  Roast it first.

Then eat it.   We just eat what we want and leave the rest on the carcass.  If I am roasting chicken pieces, I may roast a few extra to use exclusively for soup.  But generally, I think soup is a good way to use all that undiscovered meat after eating a roast chicken.

Take the picked-over carcass and stick it into your crock pot covered with water on low overnight.  You can also put it in a large pot on your stove and boil/simmer it for several hours until it all falls apart.

 In the morning you should have a pile of disconnected bones, cartilage, skin and meat.

Pour off the broth into a large pot (I use a metal colander to catch any falling pieces.)

Then separate the meat from the bones, fat, and "stuff".   I usually wait for everything to cool at little.  Some people might find this skeevy, but this is where chicken soup comes from.  I think we are far too removed from our food.  These are all the parts of a chicken.  My uncle used to suck the marrow out of the bones, which I thought was gross.  But perhaps we would be less wasteful if we knew all the quality nutrients we were just throwing away. 

In our house, there is usually a lot left on the carcass, so I put some meat into the pot of broth and then have two containers or a plastic bag that I put some in and freeze for later use.  

I scooped about 1 c. of broth into each extra container and then topped off with water, maybe another 1/2 c.   Those will go into my freezer for future emergency soup needs.   I also may use my leftover frozen chicken and broth for Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Pot Pie, or Chicken and Dumplings.  I'll post the recipes below.  

I added about another 8 c. of water to the pot and about 4 bouillon cubes.  Is that cheating?  I think of it as adding flavored salt.

Peel and chop about 3 carrots, and chop 3 celery stalks. 

Add to the pot and simmer.  At this point, I just let the whole thing simmer for the rest of the day.  I think the veggies take about 1/2 hour or so to get tender, but simmering longer allows all the flavors to meld in my opinion. 

About 10 - 15 minutes before serving, I add the noodles.   Usually about a cup or 1/2 a bag of noodles is more than enough.

You can use anything really.   I usually use egg noodles, but I have also used leftover pasta.  You could use leftover rice too.

Your soup is ready to serve!

Homemade Chicken Soup

1 chicken carcass or about 3-4 lbs of chicken parts - roasted in the oven.
3 carrots, peeled and chopped.
3 celery stalks, chopped
10-12 cups of water, divided
4 bouillon cubes (optional)
1 c. of noodles (or 8 oz - 1/2 bag)

Cook carcass covered in water, in a crock pot overnight or on your stove top for several hours until falling apart.  Allow to cool.  Pour off broth into a large cook pot.   Separate meat from bones, skin, and other inedible parts.  Put meat into pot of broth, or separate into containers for future use.  Place chopped vegetables into pot and simmer for hours or until veggies are tender.  Add noodles about 10 minutes before serving.  At any point, you can skim the chicken fat off the top of the pot if it is too oily. 

Here is the Enchiladas recipe.  Our dear Columbian friend, Dedie, used to make these for us.

Chicken Enchiladas  by Dedie Belliveau

12 corn or flour tortillas
1 - 2 T. oil
2 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 lg. onion, chopped fine
1 lb or so of cooked chopped chicken (or turkey!)
2 c. chicken broth
1/4 cup flour (or Wondra - no lumps!)
1/2 t. salt
sliced jalapenos to taste (fresh or pickled)
1 - 8 oz. sour cream

Soften tortillas in a hot oil in skillet (you don’t have to do this with the flour tortillas – they are soft enough to roll).  Saute’ onion until soft.  Mix together cheese, onion and chicken in a bowl.  Spoon onto tortillas; roll to enclose filling.  Place in greased 9x13 pan.  In a saucepan, blend broth, flour and salt.  Cook until thick, stirring constantly.  Add jalapenos.  Blend in sour cream.  Pour over the tortillas.  Bake at 350º for 40- 45 min. or until bubbly.  I have also made up just the rolled tortillas and frozen them in freezer bags for a later time. 

The recipes for Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken and Dumplings are both from  They are tried and true (by me! and others I am sure.)  There were many other less or unsuccessful attempts with other recipes prior.   These recipes are easy (non-processed easy) and they are delicious.

If I am not particularly feeling like 2 nights of soup, I may even divide the pot of broth / meat in two and use it for a second night of pot pie or chicken and dumplings.    Turn your roast chicken into a 3 day meal!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Make Your Own Taco Seasoning

Since I have started on Pinterest, several people have asked me about recipes and gardening tips.  I don't really think much about what I do, I just do it.  So, I decided I would start blogging and pinning some of the things that are now just second nature to gardening, making bread, milking goats, etc.....saving bread crumbs.

Sorry, no spiritual insights today ;)

But, you can make your own Taco Seasoning.  My mom used to buy those $1- each packets (probably .69 back then) all the time and it was all I knew, so that's what I bought too.  Now I make my own large batch of it and store it in an old spice container.  I use about  1-2 T. per pound of ground beef for tacos, or just use it to taste for other recipes.

I buy most of my spices from Job Lot or Price Rite, but if you want to be even healthier / natural / organic, you could get the higher quality spices, or use your own.  I do use my own hot pepper flakes.

That is NOT the cumin container, it's an old chili powder container that I am reusing. 

This recipe is roughly based on the recipe in Saving Dinner the Low-Carb Way by Leanne Ely.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

1 cup dried minced onion
1/3 c. chili powder
3 T. cumin
3 t. red pepper flakes (she calls for 4 t., but mine are super-hot.)
1 T. oregano
4 t.  garlic powder
2 t. onion powder

Mix together and store in airtight container.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lessons from Roger Williams

I am reading to my 9 year old a little book called Once Upon a Time in RI which was written in 1914.  It is not a first source or anything; it’s just a collection of historical stories (true stories, it says) telling of some major events in the founding of RI for children. 

I am only in the second chapter, but I think that modern Christians have much to learn from Roger Williams.  I think some have forsaken the priority and call to share the gospel and love the “heathen” and are instead trying to use government power to force what they perceive as God’s agenda upon them. 

Christ’s love is much more powerful.  I am not saying that Christians shouldn’t run for office or vote or advocate their position. I am just saying that forcibly imposing our will through government....even if it is in keeping with God’s standard, was not God’s chosen way for “change”.  His chosen way was Christ and the gospel. 

Roger Williams had the same issues,  “Moreover, the Puritan rulers in Boston allowed the Magistrates there to punish people not only for breaking the laws about lying and stealing and so on, they also had the right to punish people for not going to church, or for breaking the Sabbath day, or for not believing as the Puritan ministers taught them.  This seemed to Williams very wrong.  He did not think the magistrates could have any such power as that.” 1  Instead, Williams “busied himself with teaching and preaching, and also began to seek out the Indians and make friends with them.” 2

He spent much of his time with the Indians.  He wasn’t reveling in or approving of their sin, unbelief, etc. but sharing Christ with them with his very life.  They seemed to welcome him.  He had respect for them.  One thing that got him into trouble with the Governor was that he believed that all the land belonged to the indians, and only they had the right to sell or give away portions of land, not the King of England. 

And let’s not say that Williams was some wishy-washy Christian, his true agenda was the gospel, that is clear.  He wrote and lived the truth and challenged the establishment’s doctrine.....sounds a lot like Luther.

I wonder how much further we would get in “encouraging” righteousness in our society, if we took our time to seek out the lost and live among them, invited them to our tables or dined at theirs, learned their language, and respected their rights as people.  I know there are Christians out there doing just that, many, many of them. Unfortunately, they are not the Kings and Governors and Puritan rulers.  So I guess this is a thought for the leaders and talkers who are called Christian.  

I know there is truth to be defended, consequences to curtail, Christian persecution to consider, but we cannot coerce people to believe as we do. Do we really want to use the government to do so?  (This goes both ways, do those who do not believe as we do, really want to use government to force us to believe what they do?)   
Even those things that are no-compromise issues for us - abortion for example.  How was it that the barbarians and savages of old stopped sacrificing their babies to their gods?   Missionaries came.  Missionaries were martyred.  Savages came to Christ and stopped killing their children.  That’s the power that changes.  Not government laws or edicts.

Why not try Roger’s way?  Why not try Christ’s way?

1  Once Upon a Time in RI by Katherine Pyle pg. 24-25
2 Ibid  pg. 22

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Waste Not

So, I got this cookbook for Christmas called "More-with-Less".   A friend and mentor of mine when I was in college cooked from it all the time, but we were a "Fanny Farmer" cookbook family, so I never thought much again about this cookbook until I read three or four blogs where the individuals used recipes that came from the book.   So I asked for it for Christmas and now this waste not post.

It always really gets to me when I go to dinner parties or gatherings where people throw away perfectly good food!  I watched a friend of mine throw away about a pound of fresh vegetables off of a veggie tray into her trash can.  I tried not to gasp!  Well, after reading this book, I realized how very wasteful I was being myself.  I would buy fresh herbs for a recipe, which would of course, go bad in my fridge after I had used what I needed.  Heels of bread would mold in the bread basket until they weren't even acceptable to feed the chickens.  

At the end of each chapter of More-with-Less is a section called "Gather Up the Fragments".  I have been trying to follow this advice, although I haven't quite grasped how to use the meat scraps.  However, I probably have made about 3 cannisters' worth of perfectly good (better than store-bought) bread crumbs and cubes from my bread scraps.  Can you believe I was just throwing away the stumps of my home-made bread!  For shame! 

I save all of my bread ends, old (but not moldy) bagels, rolls, etc. and throw them in a bag in my freezer.  (This bag is not truly representative as I didn't think to take pictures of my first batch, but you get the idea.)

When I have a good amount saved, I cut any chunks into slices and put them on a cookie tray to toast in the oven. 

Then I put the toast into my food processor.  Some of it comes out a little chunky, and some of it comes out as crumbs.  The chunky pieces I can use for stuffing (which I make maybe once a year.)

Here's my step-mother's grandmother's recipe:  

Kate Larsen's Bread Stuffing 
(this got rave reviews from the cooks in the kitchen at our church Thanksgiving dinner...).

1 large loaf of white or wheat bread- leave out to get stale for about two hours...
OR substitute the leftover bread-end, bread cubes from your freezer! 
Cut into cubes or use as is if small enough.
Place in large bowl and moisten with a little water or broth (enough just to moisten - about 1 - 1 1/2 cups?)
Add to bread:  1 medium onion chopped fine, 1 stalk celery chopped fine, LOTS of fresh Parsley (don't use dried, this is the secret ingredient that makes this fabulous - use the whole bunch!),  6-8 stalks fresh thyme  (dry is fine for this ing. about 1/2 t.),  1 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper, and about 3-4 eggs, enough to make it bind.  Mix well with your hands and stuff it in your turkey/chicken or bake it in a covered dish. 

I use the crumbs for any breaded recipe.

Like Eggplant Parmesan - I made extra and put that in the freezer too.

I have also been drying any leftover herbs that I buy on a nail above my sink and I have been freezing any veggies that are not going to be used in the immediate future....except lettuce, of course.  

Maybe next I can render the fat I cut off of our meats to make my soap?  Nah. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

More Insights from Laura Ingalls Wilder

I am reading aloud to my daughter, "These Happy Golden Years".  In the beginning of the book, Laura is teaching at a school about 12 miles from her home and boarding with a man and his wife while she teaches the school for, I believe, 8 weeks.  The wife is sullen, rude, silent and brooding.  She does not speak to Laura at all, even though Laura tries to be pleasant to her.  The wife even threatens to kill her husband one night with a knife if he won't take her home back east.  Granted, the homestead winter was not easy, but the contrast between Laura's time with this family, and the Long Winter with her own family, is sharp.  Laura refuses to complain about her time out with the Brewsters because she knows her family needs the money to keep Mary in college, even though her very life may be in danger.

She is so overjoyed and thankful at the end of the term, when she returns to her own peaceful home.  There is nothing amazing about their home, but Laura's love for her parents and their mutual love and respect for each other sits in sharp contrast to the Brewsters' home.

This morning, I read this scripture:

"Better a little with the fear of the LORD
than great wealth with turmoil.

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love
than a fattened calf with hatred."

- Proverbs 15: 16-17

Although the Brewsters fed Laura sufficiently, the food was flavorless; the atmosphere was heavy in the little claim shanty.  She could not break the sullen weight of that disgruntled wife.

Her home with Ma and Pa and her siblings was peace and joy.  They never seemed to get ahead materially, but they made do and were thankful for the little they had, even if it was the blackbird pie that they made from the blackbirds that ate their entire cornfield.

It was like the perfect story-picture of this proverb.

Then I thought, how is the atmosphere in my home?  Are my children and husband ecstatic to be at home?  Is there fear of the Lord and love in my home?  or turmoil and strife?

I'd like to think that I have a peaceful and joyful home, but it is something to continually strive for.  Circumstances can so often bring turmoil, and those circumstances are so often financial.  It's funny that the Proverb not only contrasts love and hatred, but plenty and want - with plenty on the side of hatred, and want on the side of love.

It is best to be content with little, and not to allow the fear of want to squander the faith and love in our homes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In the Crosshairs

So, I went out for coffee/dessert with a bunch of homeschool moms last night.  We talked about a lot of things, but at one point, we were discussing those homeschool kids who had left the nest and some were asking, “how has their experience been out in the world?”  I have a daughter who is a freshman in college and where I have not heard too many shocking world-exposure experiences from her, there have been a few.  Another woman at the table was sharing some real horror stories that her children had experienced at college and in the workforce.  When we asked her, “wow, really?  So, what do you do?”  She said, “I pray.” 

This morning, I woke up and next up in my reading was Psalm 11.  As I read I, she was right, we need to pray.  And, I think God is telling us that our children are in the crosshairs. 

Psalm 11
New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
    For the director of music. Of David.

1 In the LORD I take refuge.

I take refuge in God and no where else. 

How then can you say to me:  
“Flee like a bird to your mountain. 

2 For look, the wicked bend their bows; 
they set their arrows against the strings 
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart. 

3 When the foundations are being destroyed, 
what can the righteous do?”

Those around me and even I am thinking these exact things: run away, hide!  Bring them back home!  Look they are just sitting ducks, targets for the evil one!  The wicked have their bows poised in the dark for those who walk upright!  What will happen if the foundation we have laid falls?  What can Christian parents do?

Now just to clarify, Christians do not think they or their children are “righteous”. We are sinners, our only righteousness comes from Christ.   When I think of the righteous in the Psalms, I think it applies to those who are following God and seeking to obey His word as it would apply in the Old Testament.  Even David was a sinner, yet he referred to himself as righteous because of his relationship with God.  The righteous would be the opposite of the wicked who are: 1) attacking God and His People,  2) not striving for righteousness as God has defined it.

4 The LORD is in his holy temple; 
the LORD is on his heavenly throne. 

He observes the sons of men; 
his eyes examine them.
5 The LORD examines the righteous, 

but the wicked and those who love violence 
his soul hates. 

6 On the wicked he will rain 
fiery coals and burning sulfur; 
a scorching wind will be their lot. 
7 For the LORD is righteous, 
he loves justice; 
upright men will see his face.

Whew!  That’s right, “In the LORD I take refuge!"  He is on His throne and He sees all that is happening and examines each one, righteous and wicked alike.  We can pray to Him when we see arrows pointed at our children.

I suppose, a lesson to those with children still at home, be diligent to teach these things:  that God is our refuge, that He is on His throne, He sees all, He is righteous, He is just, and upright men will see His face  AND PRAY.  Be the person that your children “flee” to for coaching and guidance when that time comes.  An interesting point observed last night, was that these young adults had informed their parents of these experiences they had had.....they were not afraid to come home (or call home) and say, “hey, mom and dad, this is what I heard and saw today.”  Be so close to your children that they are not afraid to share something shocking with you.

It’s hard to sit by and not intervene, but these are our adult children, even if they are still somewhat dependent on us, they need to know that God is in His temple; He is on His throne. THEY need to grasp that God watches the sons of men, both righteous and wicked.  And THEY need to know which group they identify with and follow that path themselves.  Hopefully, they have believed on Jesus in their own hearts and minds and are clinging to Him as they face the world, and if they aren't, we can pray for them.

In the LORD I take refuge.....

The LORD is in his holy temple... 
the LORD is on his heavenly throne.
He observes the sons of men..... 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Defining Perseverance

Does anyone have perseverance anymore?

perseverance - ˌpərsəˈvi(ə)rəns
1 steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success
2 Theology continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory.

My daughter and I are reading “The Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder and there were several instances where I am astounded by their perseverance and their expectations for perseverance.

Some of the very basic instances in the book have to do with the family’s perseverance in keeping themselves warm and fed.  They all take turns at twisting hay for fuel until their hands bleed.  The coffee mill must always be cranked to grind the wheat for the day’s bread because the mill grinds so little at time.  Baby Grace sits on Mary’s lap near the stove for which seems like hours on end!  Is that Mary persevering or Baby Grace? Either way, it’s pretty impressive. Pa hauls hay from the slough, with the horse falling through the snow as he goes.  He perseveres in getting the horse out of the snow and around the hole. He doesn’t turn back home saying, it’s no use. He continues on in order to bring the hay home for feed and fuel. 

In one instance, Pa is sharing with the family why the trains have stopped coming through to them.  The Superintendent was bound and determined to get the trains through the snow with blizzards coming and lasting 3 days each, with maybe a day’s break in between.  He decides to drive an engine into the snow bank on the tracks starting 2 miles away and building up speed to charge through the snowbank.  The engineer refuses the job, calling it suicide, and so the Superintendent does it himself.  He ends up buried and frozen into the snowbank until they dig him and the engine out.  He then gives up and states that the trains won’t run until spring.  Pa says that the Superintendent lacks perseverance. 

Huh, really? What did he expect him to do?  I guess he expected him to keep on charging into the cut until he got through.  Yep, I think that’s what he expected.

Another instance is when Almanzo and Cap Garland leave town to find wheat that is rumored to have been raised by a homesteader some 20 miles away.  It’s a rumor, no assurance that it is even there or where it is if it is.  It is bitter cold, the blizzards have only been stopping for a day at a time.  They also periodically fall through the snow as they travel over the undetectable sloughs.  They run along side the horses and sleds to warm their feet.  They slap their hands on their chests to keep the blood flowing through their numb hands.  Almanzo and Cap are a true picture of perseverance.  They risk their lives, with no benefit to themselves, to save many in the town from starving to death.  There is no more food in the stores and no hope of deliveries with the trains stopped.  Even when they reach their destination, they buy the wheat and head back home, refusing the hospitality of the homesteader in order to get home. 

Huh, really?  They were freezing, near frost bit, dead tired, and they didn’t stay the night even?  

The Ingalls had academic perseverance.  The girls all studied their books at home since they couldn’t risk going to school with the blizzards.  Even Mary, blind, memorized the readers and did her math figures in her head.

They had spiritual and moral perseverance too.  They rarely complained and when they did they repented immediately, sharing their gratefulness for what they had.  Instead of seeing how cold they were, they thought of how much colder they would be if they had stayed on the claim. Ma sees the emptying wheat sack in the corner and yet trusts that Pa will provide for them. She doesn’t say a word until he asks.  Instead of moping, they sang songs.  Even when Pa’s hands were so bad that he couldn’t play the fiddle, the girls all suggested singing anyway. 

We certainly lack all of these levels of perseverance.  I think because we do not need to persevere in our physical lives, we do not persevere in our moral, or spiritual lives.   We don’t even necessarily need to provide for ourselves or our own families, we have entitlements that we lean back on.  We can give up.

Physically and in other aspects of my life, if something is too hard, I just don’t do it.  I am wondering if that is a sin of sorts?  If God calls me to do something, to persevere in something, it is. 

I remember when I first became a believer, hearing the testimony of a young woman who was engaged to a talented college-bound football player in her high school.  She was the beautiful cheerleader, super-model type.  She was caught in all those worldly trappings, sleeping with her boyfriend (understandably), on the fast-track to the professional-beauty world.  Then she became a believer in Jesus and ended it all.  She gave it all up for the sake of persevering in righteousness, to obey Christ.

Some of us don’t even persevere in righteousness.  How often do we choose sin, justifying our actions?  Calling the call to obedience “legalism” for our own purposes?  God’ll get over it.  The Cross covers it.  That is lack of perseverance of the spiritual nature. 

Hebrews 12:2
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

endure - enˈd(y)oŏr
1 [ trans. ] suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently
• tolerate (someone or something)
2 [ intrans. ] remain in existence; last