Points of View

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Steam rising from the river

Yesterday did not go quite as planned….at least as I had planned. I had planned to rake leaves. And I had planned to do some more last minute Fall outdoor things.

When I woke up yesterday I noticed the gleaming sheen of ice on our porch. There were a few flakes drifting around and I still thought I would be able to rake the thick coating of leaves off the grass in our front yard…..later in the day.

As the morning wore on, the wind started to howl, the snow came down thicker and I realized that lawn raking was not going to be happening. My husband informed me that I could still rake if I wanted to. I assured him that raking a leaf/snow mix was a bad idea.

I had let the girls out in the morning and saw that they were safely tucked into the small shed where they love to dust bath. I vaguely wondered if they would figure out to go in once night came around or if they would not want to walk on fresh fallen snow.

Come about 5:00 in the afternoon I had the answer to my wonderings. When it came time to lock the girls in for the night I was missing five Rhode Island Reds. I went to the house and got a flashlight and trudged back.

Under the non-working pickup in the shed, there were the five birds. Back to the house I went and grabbed a broom. Using the broom I started tapping on the pickup….loudly…and then swinging it around underneath to encourage those girls to make the journey to the coop.  It worked for two of them.

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Enjoying the day after the snow

The last three decided to make life difficult. I would go one way around that vehicle and they would run the other. It didn’t take long and they had wedged themselves behind a large panel of wood.

I would say I was exasperated, but it was way beyond that.  I was to the stage of muttering under my breath about chicken soup tasting good….drumsticks and name-calling. For a space of time, I was starting to think I should be riding that broom instead of using it to try herd chickens.

Fortunately my husband came home and with the aid of a fishing net; the three birds were nabbed and safely installed in the coop for the night. It was too late for me to make it to my Bible Study group…which was a sad thing because I really really needed to go to Bible Study after the chicken chasing event.

I have a feeling those last three girls were scared of something they did not know. The first snow of the season left them feeling uneasy and out of their comfort zone. They did not want to walk on something that was not familiar.

I get that feeling….I don’t like being out of my comfort zone either!  I also do not like taking a path that feels different. It is too scary and you never know what you will encounter when you are asked to go through things that are not the same as before.

It would probably do me good to remember that, when I am asked by my Creator to do something different; it is for my own good when I am herded to the coop…it might be for my safety that I am asked to walk unfamiliar paths. I wonder how many times I am the one upside down in a fish net, squawking up a storm?

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Beauty in the Morning

I also have the feeling those chickens have no idea how beautiful the morning after a snowfall can be.

The fog rising off the river….the trees decked in sparkling ice….and the hush that comes with a small layer of snow.

They cannot appreciate the crunch of icy pellets underfoot and the cold air as it makes your fingers tingle.

This morning was a good morning. I made no plans dependent on weather. The girls were once again enjoying being outdoors. The trees were beautiful. The leaves just might stay where they are, till they disintegrate next spring, and it is all good.

I will try not to squawk to much when guided down unfamiliar paths. I will, instead, try enjoy the view set before me….even though it may be different than I had planned.

 

“There is a sense of danger in leaving what you know,
even if what you know isn’t much.
― John William Tuohy

Canning For The Year

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This has been a wonderful busy fall season. It is amazing what a difference one year has made. Those of you who know me, know that I spent last fall recovering from a bout of West Nile.  I was so grateful this year to be busy with canning, spending time with family and friends and just celebrating how good life is.

For me one of the great things of life, especially the fall, is the canning season. Years ago my grandma canned every bit of produce she could get her hands on. She instilled in me a love of seeing the produce come out of the garden, journey through the canning/preservation process and end up on the pantry shelves.

Sometimes Fall can feel like an ending to a season. I am not sure why, but canning does not feel like giving up on a past season. Canning feels like preparing for a fresh start. Lining shelves with the summer’s bounty is strangely fulfilling and highly addictive.

What starts out as just doing some batches of peaches, applesauce and pizza sauce turns into a hunt for a new recipe to try….a new way to try preserve the produce.  Canning is kind of like putting Summer in a jar and opening it to enjoy on those cold winter days.

For me…..canning is hope….hope that you are prepared….hope that you are ready for what comes…..and the hope that by the time your jars run out, you also run out of cold winter days.

Seeing the shelves lined with filled jars gives such a feeling of contentment. I may be weird in that thought but I am okay with that. I love going into my pantry and just standing there looking at those filled jars.

I tried a new recipe this year. We had such an abundance of watermelon that we could not keep up eating them. We gave melons away, I juiced a couple melons and they still kept producing. Even the chickens got to eat watermelon!

So this year I made watermelon jelly. It is so pretty in the jars and really tastes like watermelon in a jar!  I am so excited that in the middle of a cold dreary winter day I can open a jar and feel like summer is not so far away.

Watermelon Jelly
Yield: Makes five half pints

Ingredients: 
5 cups white sugar
5 tablespoons powdered pectin
6 cups pureed watermelon (remove any seeds prior to pureeing)
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice

Instructions:
Whisk together sugar and powdered pectin until they are fully integrated. Combine watermelon puree, sugar/pectin and lemon juice in a large, non-reactive pot.
Bring to a boil and let cook until the temperature of the nascent jelly reaches 220 degrees. This can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on the width of your pot, the heat of your stove and even the weather you’re having. Check set using saucer test before removing it from the heat, to ensure that it will set.
Remove from the heat and pour into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and screw on bands. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
When time is up, remove from canner and let jars cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals. You can eat immediately or store unopened jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
Notes:
*This jelly can take up to one week to set. Please give it time.

I found this recipe on Pinterest and here is the link:
https://foodinjars.com/recipe/watermelon-jelly-recipe/
My notes: 
I used the low sugar pectin so it would set up better. Also, make sure to boil till you reach the correct temp as this also helps with setting this jelly.
Do NOT omit the lemon juice or use fresh lemon juice.
this is needed to properly acidify the watermelon for safe canning.
I wait 24 hours before removing the rings.

 

I love having full shelves, but I also love to gift some of the bounty to my children and others. It is fun “shopping” my shelves and filling boxes to send home with them.

I love the fact that, for me, those jars speak of faithfulness. The faithfulness of my Creator in providing for every need. They are more than just food….they are a visual reminder.  Those jars are a way to connect with those that I love and a connection to those who have gone before.

Food is our common ground,
a universal experience.

James Beard 
Read more: http://www.searchquotes.com/search/Food_Preservation/#ixzz63Pz248Hn

Summer’s End

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In the past few days there have been several indicators that Fall is fast closing in. Canning season has come to an end. The garden is no longer beautiful and lush.  (It was looking bedraggled and spent so we cleared the debris and my husband pulled a disc through it.) The tall grasses that line the river bank are turning brown and the trees are fast losing their leaves.

The sound of the mornings are even different than a month ago. There is no longer a choir of birds singing at high volume in the gully to the south of us. Wind does not blow softly through the leaves on the trees. It seems to be gaining that winter howl…though I am glad it is not accompanied by snow…….yet!

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An End to Summer Fun

I took the pool down a few weeks back because we were having high winds and they said cooler weather was coming. I figured I should take it down while the weather was nice enough to deal with gallons of water that would probably be landing on me.

It was my concession to the fact that the seasons were indeed changing and I had best be prepared. I had been dragging my feet on that task as I do like the warmer weather, better than snow and cold and ice. It does feel kind of like giving up when I take it down.

I had not really planned on taking a few weeks break from blogging, but it just seemed that every time I was going to sit down and work on a post, another job seemed more pressing. Between the canning, prepping the garden for winter and preparing for the harvesting of our soybean field….time just slipped away.

The neighbor came over and combined the soybeans for us this past week. It is a good job to have finished for the season. There is a comfort in having those bushels safely tucked away at the local elevator.

There is something satisfying about the look of a harvested field. At first glance it looks like an ending. When you take a second glance you see that it is the first step in the preparations for planting next year. It is a beginning.

I love the fact that farming is like a dance. There is an ageless rhythm to the passing of seasons. There is a harmony to the preparing, planting, maintaining and harvesting those fields.

There is a beauty to the golden ripe crops and there is a beauty to the stubble left behind after the combine has done it’s work. There is a rightness to the cycles of the passing seasons and it is so evident as I watch the fields change.

Those fields are so like life….there is beauty in all seasons of life. Sometimes it may seem like giving up as you enter that next season. In all reality it is just a preparation for the next steps of the dance.

Let’s enjoy that change…let’s embrace the ageless rhythm that is life. Let’s open our eyes to the beauty of each step we take. Those endings just might be beginnings…..much like taking in the harvest in order to prepare for planting.

 

“Live each season as it passes;
breathe the air,
drink the drink,
taste the fruit,
and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
— Henry David Thoreau

A Lesson In Hope

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I spoke with a friend last week. There is nothing unusual in that because I tend to speak directly, or through texts with friends everyday. What was unusual was the news she told me.

A friend of hers has been diagnosed with cancer….incurable….inoperable. I know this friend of hers. This friend posted on Facebook and I was blown away at the words she wrote. They were words that acknowledged pain, wondered about the unknown, and her words were fearless.

Her words were HOPE. Not hope in the days spent on earth. Not hope in the friendships. Not hope in the things of this world….but hope in the One who orchestrates our days. They were words of a life to be lived while still alive.

The past week has been a time of news that is not good to our way of thinking. Too many friends, relatives and acquaintances with diagnosis of illnesses that are going to be a challenge and going to bring pain to them and those around them. It has been a week of hearing about family issues that hurt. It had just been one of those weeks.

The news makes us want to ask “Why?” Years ago I had an aunt who answered that question with “Why not me?” It was a perspective shift for me. It is a question I try ask when life seems to pick me up and toss me around like an amusement park ride.

I don’t know the answer to either of those questions. What I do know is that hope sustains…hope comforts….and hope never disappoints when your hope is in the One who created you.

Hope gives you the ability to put one foot in front of the other when the way is dark. It sustains through physical, mental, and spiritual anguish.

And so I will watch these people that I know…these people I love…these friends, acquaintances and relatives who make this journey. I am in awe of their faith. I am in awe of the way they handle these days and the thought of the days to come.

They are an inspiration….they are a witness. They have Hope with a capital H because God…..God in the dark and God in the light. He shines and because they have hope they reflect the shine and I stand in awe.

Yes….life is hard and sometimes feels like an amusement park ride that will not let you get off. But Hope……..

 

Hope is being able to see
that there is light despite all of the darkness.
Desmond Tutu

 

Days That Are Keepers

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Some days just start out good and just keep rolling along that way. The weather today is beautiful….sunny, dry and the tinge of fall in the air.

It is really a perfect day to turn 62. Yep…I just told you my age because I really don’t care!  I know they say a lady never tells her age, but this lady does, because to me…it is just a number.

On my way to town this morning the sky was so pretty. The clouds against the blue of the sky and the sun shining through. The sight of it made me  a bit late for meeting one of my sisters. I just had to stop and take a picture because beauty like that does not last all day.screenshot_2019-09-27-13-42-391442967960.png

My sister took me to Le Meilleur this morning for the most amazing pastry. It was a cinnamon roll made from a croissant. Our tea was the perfect beverage to go with it.

Le Meilleur is a small bakery in our small town. Unfortunately it is moving to the south of us; to the town where my sister lives.

I am glad it is not going far as I would miss this fun meeting place! The fact they have delicious pastries is a huge bonus as well.

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The day just kept getting better. Once I returned home a package arrived in the mail for me.

I had totally forgotten that I had put my name in a drawing at the Veteran’s Booth at the Clay County Fair a few weeks ago.

Today, I found they had drawn my name and I had won a beautiful stitched American flag!  I was thrilled and it was even better that it arrived on my birthday.  I have not yet mentioned to my husband that I just may need a flagpole to fly this flag.

I did have to take some ribbing from my husband this morning. I showed him a birthday wish a friend had sent on Facebook. The post included fireworks. My husband commented that of course there were fireworks. With that many candles any cake would blow up!

He also reminded me I am now eligible for Social Security.  I reminded him that I had finally caught up with his age! (I am also kind of hoping I am like a fine wine and just getting better with age.)  That may or may not be true, but I kind of like the logic.

One thing I have learned in my 62 years is to make sure to live while you are alive. Maybe I have learned more than one thing….I also know that it is good to find joy in a  sky filled with beautiful clouds and streaming sunlight.

I know that each day is a gift because I am not assured of the next. I have learned that life is good…if you let it be…attitude counts for a lot and there are good people everywhere.

I pray that when I am all done with my birthdays and have reached the end of my days…that I am greeted with the phrase, “well done…good and faithful servant.” And I pray that when my friends and family think of me….it brings a huge grin to their face and maybe leaves them wondering….just a bit.

 

And in the end,
it’s not the years in your life that count.
It’s the life in your years.

-Abraham Lincoln

 

Someday Just Might Be Today

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There is an old song by CCR (Credence Clearwater Revival) titled “Someday Never Comes”.  It might be true for the lyrics in that song but I have found that Someday is Today!

I am going to back up a bit….well a long bit. When we first moved here about 15 years ago we had sheep in our back yard. Yes, you read that right…sheep. It was hard packed dirt and when you slept with the windows open at night the sheep were right by the window.

We decided we should probably have a back yard, so the sheep got penned in somewhere else and my husband chewed up that hard earth and we planted grass seed. That first crop of grass was promptly eaten by a small flock of chickens.

We went back to the farm store and purchased some more grass seed. The seed was planted and it did not take long and those same chickens had once again cleared it off as it came up.

At that point my husband decided we would seed it one more time and if they ate it again he was done….no grass….no backyard.  I petitioned for a fence to keep the girls out.

We put up a fence quickly, as we figured, someday we would do it right. Someday we would make it nice and straight and put a gate in that actually swung easily and wasn’t just wired to the fence.

This time the grass grew as it was protected by our temporary fence. The years kind of slid past, as they tend to do, and temporary was starting to look kind of permanent.

This past spring my husband purchased a very nice garden gate at a farm consignment auction with the intention that someday we would put that in when we redid that piece of backyard fence.

The somedays seemed to go past and this week my husband decided that someday had arrived! Yesterday the gate was put in with cement around the poles to make it sturdy. Today we redid the piece of fence that attaches to the garden gate and goes to the chicken coop.

To say I am excited about it is a bit of an understatement. I am excited to have a fence that is straight and stands firm. I am excited to have a gate that will latch and swings easily in both directions. (It is amazing what using the correct hardware will do for a garden gate!)

I love the look of the old gate and the old fence. The fence was some that used to go around the front yard when we bought this place many years ago. I have a feeling that piece of fence could tell a lot of stories about the children it kept in and the critters it kept out. (Probably chickens!)

There is probably a lesson in here somewhere. It probably has to do with being patient and how that is a virtue or something like that. I must confess I did not feel virtuous. I just kind of got used to the wobbly fence and less than stellar gate set up.

There is probably a lesson in that somewhere too!  It probably is a lesson that we should not get so complacent when things are not as they should be. Maybe we should work a bit harder to make them right. This is true with fences as well as things like relationships and other things needing to be straightened out.

Whatever the lesson. I am just happy that someday did come to our farm! May your someday show up soon and may it leave you as excited as my someday did for me.

One day,
you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday.
And then quietly,
without you ever really noticing,
someday is today.
And then someday is yesterday.
And this is your life.

John Green

 

Porch Conversations

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It has been a bit since I posted. For some reason life just got in the way of writing anything. Somewhere between gardening, canning, sitting with a family member in the hospital, birthday parties, baking cakes for birthday parties, family reunions, picking beans, canning again, splitting wood and pressing apples for cider…..a post just never got written.

The other morning my husband and I had a chance to sit a bit and reflect on the busyness of the past weeks. We were starting our day, sitting on the porch, having our first of the morning cups of coffee and tea.

It was beautiful…a bit chilly for this time of year. It was quiet with only the migrating blackbirds to disturb the peace. It was the kind of morning where porch conversations take place….those conversations where everything gets discussed.

The past weeks were rehashed and relived. Some we laughed about and thought we should do again. Some we decided we really didn’t want to repeat. Porch conversation meander (at least ours seem to). They seem to take their sweet time and sometimes end up in places you had no idea they would go.

We pondered on contentment. We wondered why it seems some people never are content; and how those people always seem to want more. For the life of us, we cannot understand that thought.  I am kind of grateful we don’t understand that concept.

It was decided that, perhaps, we viewed life more as a cross country race than a sprint. When our sons were in cross country we noticed that winning was important…but even more important was beating your own time….running your own race…but running it better than the race before.

We kind of liked that thought. The thought of living life; to live it better than the day before was kind of good. It seems to be a way to live without competing against everyone else and without comparing yourself to others.

Living life by just trying to do your own stuff better, really frees a person up from wanting what everyone else has or wanting more than everyone else has. Maybe time on a porch just makes for being content. Maybe it is the slower pace that sitting on a porch seems to bring.

There is just something about sitting on a porch, starting your day with a good cup of tea/coffee and connecting with someone you love; that lends itself to a very content state of mind. Whatever it is….I am all for it.

May you have time to sit with a loved one this weekend. May your conversations meander and bring a smile to your face…..and if you can do this on a porch….may it bring a sense of contentment and a feeling that all is right with your world.

 

 “Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want
but the realization of how much you already have.”
Anonymous