Good News on a Palm Sunday

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I have a friend who gives me crosses.  She knows I love the reminder of how much grace and what a gift I have been given – that we all have been given.

We are in the season of Holy Week for the Christian community.  Where the fickleness of human nature is displayed, going from shouting “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him”  in one short week.  I like to think we would be different….but would we?  Would I?  And through the entire event; we are offered grace.  We are offered forgiveness and atonement.

For those going through circumstances that seem overwhelming, this week offers hope.  This week reminds, that no matter how bleak things look; God has a plan that will be delivered in His time.  May those of you suffering loss, medical issues, pain, and all the hurts this world offers be comforted by the love the Savior has for you.  May you be reminded that He understands and that He loves you  — always.  He loved us enough to ride in to a celebration; knowing the week would end in His torture and death.  And yet, he went, because “He so loved the world”  John 3:16

May you be blessed in this season of Grace.

Palm Sunday tells us that….
it is the cross
that is the true tree of life.
Pope Benedict XVI

 

 

The View From My Window

Stormy skies

I have been spending time trying to organize my digital photos.  So many, many folders and so many with only dates and no names.  I am attempting to label the folders so when I try find something later on it should be a lot easier!

I have discovered that I seem to have a fascination for taking pictures of the view I have from my kitchen window….actually our patio door.  Maybe, it is because we do have such a great view.  We see the storm clouds rolling in from the east and we get to see the rainbows that follow.

Rainbow

Our Iowa winters seem to give us very little variety in color of the sky we see.  We tend to have slate gray easing into slate gray that eases into a cold-looking slate gray.  Once we get to spring it gets much more interesting.  I am amazed at the blues, the reds, the oranges and yellows that we get to see.  Our sunrises can be gorgeous on those hot humid mornings.

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We also enjoy sitting out and watching the “moonrises”.  I am not really sure what the correct term is for that?  It is interesting to just look at all the stars.  On our place that is easy as we do not have a security light so it gets really dark!  We often wonder what are those really fast moving lights up there?  Why did those guys name the constellations what they did? Does that bunch of stars really look like a bear??  We like to imagine where those planes are heading to as they fly over with their blinking lights.

Lunar Eclipse #5

This past summer it was really interesting to sit out and watch the lunar eclipse.  I am not sure how long we sat out there and enjoyed that show but it was something to marvel at as the moon slowly turned blood red and then disappeared for a time.

Cloud watching is also something that has always been fun.  In Iowa there is a lot of open sky so this is easy to do.  It is interesting how the clouds can change, and grow, and build as you sit and watch them.  When we were kids we would spend hours laying on our backs looking up at the clouds to see what shape they would take next.

the view from my window.JPG

I sometimes think that, as adults, we should take more time to just sit and look at the sky. Maybe if we took more time to appreciate the beauty around us, the smell of the air, the sound of the wind as it rustles the leaves, we would be more content with where we are and what we have.  Maybe the free things, like the view from our window, are God’s gift to us and a message to just enjoy the little things that He has sent. What are your favorites?  Sunrises?  Stars? Moonrises? Clouds? Or something totally different?

Next time I think I am too busy, I will have to remind myself of that message, take a breath, and just enjoy.    Oh, I think I will also go grab my camera!

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 19:1

 

 

 

Top 10 Reasons For Owning Chickens

 

A Chicken Named Poof

A Chicken Named Poof

 

I love watching my chickens, or as I call them …my girls.  I have since discovered that other small flock owners also like to call them, their girls.  I have two friends in two other states that are very dedicated to their small flock of “girls”.  When I quizzed them on their top 10 reasons why they have chickens; one of them sent me her list.

My friend from Nebraska is actually the Grandma of my daughter-in-law.  I got to know her because of that family tie and am so blessed by it!  The chicken connection just solidifies that bond.  She and her husband also have a tree farm and she is a woman who has her own personal piece of prairie land.  You can check out the Prairie Woods tree farm on either of the links below.

http://prairiewoodsnebraska.com/

https://www.facebook.com/PrairieWoodsChristmas/?fref=nf

I really had to smile when reading Judith’s top ten.  So many of them mirror what my list includes.  Maybe it is just a trait of chicken owners?  I have a feeling I will never know as I am pretty sure there haven’t been any studies on chicken ownership and the habits of chicken owners.

Judith’s Top Ten Reasons

1.  The eggs are the best ever.
2.  They are entertaining to watch.
3.  They are actually quite intelligent.
4.  They eat lots of insects.
5.  They run to meet me every day.
6.  They love to be petted and carried around, just like any good pet.
7.  They reinforce the idea that I’m a farm wife.
8.  I love looking out my window and seeing them toddling around.
9.  They are inquisitive and one has come up on the porch and tried to come into the        house for a visit.
10.  They talk to me

Vickie is another friend from South Dakota.  I got to know her through a Christian women’s retreat.  She is also a blessing to me and is the one person I know who has so thoroughly bonded with her girls that she can imitate them to perfection.  I wish I had a video of her to post here.  You would be amazed!  I haven’t gotten her top 10 yet but when I do I will update this post.

My top ten:

1.  The eggs are the best, nice yellow yolks and so fresh
2.  My grandchildren love to help gather the eggs (even though the eggs do not all make it to the house in one piece)
3.  I love to sit and watch them
4.  They keep the bug population down – I no longer get ants in my house in the summer.
5.  They use up my extra garden produce so I feel like nothing goes to waste.
6.  They follow me around the yard and sound like they are asking me  questions.  For some reason I find myself answering them. I am not sure if this is a problem or not…..
7.  They are great entertainment when you feed them watermelon seeds off the deck.
8.  They produce wonderful fertilizer for my garden
9.  They are always happy to see me. It could be the bucket of food but I prefer to think it is me they are happy to see.
10. They make me smile and that is all I need to know.

In the summer they love to drink rainwater from an old teapot that I set out.  It is kind of fun to watch them have their own tea party.

I would love to say there are only positive things to having a flock of chickens…..I would be lying.  They do require tending, protecting from varmints, and occasionally removing a “bully” from the flock.

We discovered one of the downsides to chicken ownership a few years back.  We decided the time had come to try seed some grass in our backyard.  We purchased the grass seed at the local farm store and borrowed my son’s grass seeder.  Some of the seed hardly hit the ground before those birds were scratching and pecking it right up.  During the next weeks, those hens, decimated that back yard.  Any new shoots that were brave enough to break through the surface were promptly plucked out by a chicken and eaten.  We began to develop large shallow holes in what was left of the growing lawn.  The chickens were using them for their daily dust baths.

Looking for Seeds.JPG

Come fall, we tried again to seed the back yard with the exact same results.  The next spring I wanted to try again and my husband told me this was the last time he was buying grass seed for that same lawn.  I convinced him to fence the entire backyard and garden area in with some “old-school” farm fence – the kind with the scalloped top.  This time all those little green shoots had a fighting chance and we now have a nice green lawn.  We can enjoy our back yard and have never taken the fence down.  It is kind of nice to have one area where you can walk barefoot and not worry what you are stepping in!

My husband will ask me every now and then how long I think I will keep chickens.  I just grin at him and tell him I will probably have them till I can’t get out there to take care of them. I am not really sure why (other than my top ten list) I am attracted to chickens…..I just know they make me smile…..and that is good enough reason for me.  Besides, if I would get rid of the “girls” …..what would my grandkids call me?

 

A little video of my girls when they were few days old.  Another great reason to have chickens —–they start as baby chicks.

“When arguing with a chicken,
a grain of corn is always wrong.”
— African Proverb

Mini Vacation Adventures

Sunrise

The weather is quickly changing from winter to that great season called camping.  I am so ready for that time.  We love to put the tent in the car and take a mini vacation.  Leaving early in the morning, when the sun is just coming up, makes it feel even better.  I know it is still a little while before it is tenting season but a gal can dream and plan.

A couple years ago we decided we would go check out the annual Red Power Round Up.  That year it was held in Huron, South Dakota.  My husband is pretty loyal to red tractors and this was an entire event that was saturated with everything red. I am not sure at what age a tractor qualifies as vintage, but if it is older that 1977, everything my husband uses is vintage!  We spent Friday in Huron, at the State fairgrounds looking at more red tractors of every type and year than I had ever seen in one place before.  They did have a vendor fair and even had some crafts for me to check out.  Most of the those were, of course, centered on the color red. The barn quilts really caught my eye but I did not purchase any of them because, somehow, I kept thinking I could probably make one……I still haven’t done that.

 

After we left Huron we had decided to see if we could find a spot at Lake Thompson State Park to set up “the Palace”. The Palace, is an old LARGE canvas tent.  I think it was probably meant for a family with about 6 kids……but the price was right on this tent (free) and so we use it.

the Palace

My husband didn’t want to haul our fold down camper that far for just one night so we decided the Palace was the shelter of choice.  I am good with that as long as I can take my queen size air mattress and a few other necessities for comfort.

That night at Lake Thompson we went to get our supper fixings out of the trunk.  I had packed very minimally for this one night stay.  When we set about to open the pork and bean can I questioned my husband about the bag of utensils and dishes that I had put in the cast iron fry pan.  He got kind of a funny look and told me he had left that on the table, at home, as he didn’t think it was something we needed.  This was about to get interesting. No plates, silverware, can opener or metal spatula. There were some really useful facts we learned on this particular trip.  We found out that you can open a can of beans with a hammer and a tire iron.  You can use a potato chip bag for plates. If you check your glove compartment you just might find one plastic fork from a trip to Long John Silvers. You can also use an ice scraper to flip your pancakes the next morning.  The angle on that is actually perfect for flipping pancakes.  We did more laughing because, as a very wise neighbor once said, “What can you do?”

If you are in the Lake Thompson area, the State Park has a beautiful campground and I hear that the lake is excellent for fishing.  We enjoyed walking around and just relaxing.  We also got to see our nephew who was interning that summer with the State Park system.  We spent a little time in De Smet, at the location where the Ingalls family had lived. (Little House on the Prairie is based on this).

There was a  trade off for me going with my husband to look at tractors for a day. My husband had to spend a day in Brookings for me.  I love McCrory Gardens in that town.  Their gardens are beautiful and different things are in bloom, at different times of the growing season.  It is a huge area where you can just wander from one type of garden to the next.  There are also plenty of benches to sit on and just enjoy the view.  If you enjoy flowers and are in that area I would highly recommend a stop at the gardens.

http://www.mccrorygardens.com/

Another place we enjoyed visiting was the Agricultural Heritage Museum. If you are into history and exhibits it is very interesting. To find out more just click on the link.

http://www.agmuseum.com/

Whenever we go on a road trip – long or short we usually start the day early, taking our coffee/tea and breakfast with us.  After a couple hours on the road we find a rest stop or road side park and take a short break to walk around and eat.  One traditional breakfast that we have taken with us is a wonderful treat called Fluitt.  It is sooooo easy to make and delicious. I will post the recipe so you too, can enjoy this treat on your next road trip.  Unfortunately I do not have a photo of this as it never lasts long enough to get the camera out.

 

Fluitt
2 loaves frozen bread dough (any brand will do)
1 1/2 cup brown sugar (I use the light brown)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Put the frozen bread dough into a greased 9×13 inch pan.
Let rise overnight in oven.
In the morning, punch holes in it with either your finger or the round handle of a wooden spoon.
Mix brown sugar, cream and cinnamon and pour over top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes.
Serve warm, if possible.
This is great for a Sunday morning breakfast also or when you have company.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
J.R.R. Tolkien,
The Fellowship of the Ring

A Clothes On The Line Kind Of Day

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I cannot believe it is only March 11!  This weather is absolutely beautiful.  Sunny, a brisk Iowa breeze and warmth.

We hear the flocks of geese continue to fly over as they migrate north and had the fun of seeing six bald eagles roost in the trees by the river for a couple nights.  Huge flocks of red-winged blackbirds have also been coming back and the mornings are becoming noisy with birds singing, once again.

I am finding it hard to keep myself indoors on a day like this. I have opened all the windows, as our temps are in the 60’s, and letting some of that nice fresh air in.  I decided that it was a great day to do some laundry and get it hung outside on the line.  There is always something so satisfying about seeing clean towels flapping in the wind.  They smell amazing when they’ve been on the line outside.  I should say they usually smell great when they have been outside.  Every once in awhile, in the mid-summer heat and humidity, we get the distinct smell of hogs from the neighbor’s hog buildings. I tend to avoid using outdoor drying on those days.

I have been using the same clothesline poles my entire married life and they are the same ones my mom used my entire childhood.  They started out as drive shafts on some type of vehicle. They were probably in a junkyard till some enterprising welder decided he could repurpose them, turn them into clothesline poles and make a few extra bucks.  I remember when my mom was using them; the lines were made of some really hard wire.  We would have to wipe them with a damp cloth before we hung the clothes on them, as they tended to rust and we did not want that on our good clothes.  These lines were the only dryer my mom had; as she did not have either a gas or an electric dryer in the house.  When it was winter it was no fun hanging clothes outside.  Those wet clothes made your fingers turn blue before you got too many of them hung up.  If you have never taken freeze dried blue jeans off a clothesline you are really missing something.  They were so frozen they would stand up by themselves. We were so grateful when mom got her first dryer.

The lines were great for hanging blankets on and making A-frame tents to sleep out in with our friends and cousins.  The tents worked great till the wind blew really hard and popped all our clothes pins off.  These are also the same clotheslines poles that my cousin was swinging on, landed wrong, and broke her arm.

When my folks decided they no longer needed that many lines, I inherited them, minus the large hunks of cement that were used to anchor them underground.  My husband welded new pieces on the bottom and we sunk them into the ground for my use, with brand new large hunks of concrete.  When we moved to the place we live now, we dug them up once again, and once again put them in the ground, with more concrete.  I love the connection I have with my mom when  I am using the same clothesline poles she did. It is funny how a piece of metal can bring back so many memories.  I think it is really cool that way back, someone repurposed an item and I can still use it today. About the time we think “being green” is a new innovation we look around and realize it is not new at all.

I have a feeling I had better enjoy this weather and make the best use of it……I hear we are not going to have it this nice next week.  They keep telling us that it will be colder and rainy weather is coming.  I guess I can be grateful we keep getting a taste of spring and of the summer to come.

 

Then I will give you your rains in their season,
and the land shall yield its increase,
and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
Leviticus 26:4 – ESV

At the request of my good friend, Sara, I am adding a couple pictures of my “infamous poles”. (her words)

Clothesline Pole from Drive Shaft

This next one is a close up of the clever system the inventor used so my husband can tighten up a sagging line.

Line Tightening System

Living Heirlooms

 

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Living Heirloom

 

The plant in the picture is one I received over 14 years ago from my mom-in-law.  She gave me a piece of hers when it got to big for the pot she had it in.  For at least a month it sat in a five gallon bucket, in our basement, while I tried to decide what to do with it.  To be honest, I kind of forgot about it till I went down there one day and saw it setting there looking really sad.  I found a pot for it, potted it up and hauled it upstairs.

I knew hers always bloomed beautifully and she had it in the east window.  So that is where I put mine.  For a couple years it just grew and had a few babies and slowly filled up the pot.  I had given up hope on having those gorgeous blooms show up on mine.  And then came the day when I discovered a different shoot and was excited to find it turn into a cluster of blooms.

I am not sure where my mom-in-law got her piece of plant from.  I do know that someone gave her a starter piece and she did not purchase it.  Once mine began to get root bound; I passed pieces on to each of my kids.  I don’t think theirs have bloomed yet, but they may have to give it a few more years.  Or maybe they should have ignored it and left it in their basement in a plastic bucket?

I am not even sure what the name of this plant is.  I just know I am never sure when it will bloom.  I also know it requires very little care and I love that low maintenance part! If anyone knows what this plant is would you please, please tell me!  I would love to know.

My husband laughs at how excited I get when I see those shoots show up that will turn into those big clusters. Those orange clusters of flowers are such a bright spot in my kitchen that they just make me smile.  They remind me to hope when things aren’t running smoothly, to stop and look around and appreciate the little things in life.  A simple thing like blooming flowers can be an entire life lesson if you let them.  They truly are a gift from above to those of us who like them.  They become heirlooms to be cherished and remind us of those who have given them to us.  They remind us to have faith that those blooms will eventually show up and maybe even teach a little patience…….hmmmmm,  probably a good lesson for me!

Our lives our also living heirlooms.  At least I try remind myself of that.  I remind myself to be the person I wish my friends and neighbors were.  I have to remind myself to show compassion and mercy and to also accept it.  (Sometimes that can be hard to be on the accepting end.)   Let’s have our lives make a difference in this world.  Let’s be the one others want to imitate.

So, I will just enjoy my plant, whatever it is, and let it remind me of all those truths and lessons that I need to keep in mind.

Seriously,  I would like to know what it is.  So if you know, comment below and end my ignorance.

“If God gives such attention
to the appearance of wildflowers
—most of which are never even seen
—don’t you think he’ll attend to you,
take pride in you,
do his best for you?
Matthew 6:30
The Message translation

Who Is FICA and Why is He Taking My Money?

Tax Season

Years ago, when my oldest two boys were around 12 and 14 they decided they wanted to earn some money.  In our area of the country, back then, the main way to do that in the summer was walking beans or detasseling corn.  They chose the latter and joined a detasseling crew.

They were up early every morning, lunch coolers in hand, rain coats and boots handy,  and on the bus by 4:00 in the morning. The down side of this endeavor was they were too young to drive and my husband or I had to take them to the bus.  Their morning was spent with dew running down their raincoats, into their boots and slogging through mud while pulling tassels out of each corn stalk.  The afternoons were spent drying off in the oppressive heat, as they walked,  pulling more tassels from every corn stalk.  When they arrived back home the time was spent hosing the dried mud off their boots, coats, shoes, and clothes and hanging everything on the clothesline so they could be ready to repeat the process the next day.

When they finally got their first checks they were so excited!  While looking them over the question came from one of them – “Who is FICA?” and the other one asked , “And why is he taking my money?”  My husband and I laughed like crazy and told them they were now helping support their great grandparents and soon their grandparents.  They were not convinced that was a great idea. At their age they could not conceive of ever being old enough to collect what FICA had taken.

Once again we are in tax season.  As farmers, we needed to be done by the end of February.  The detasseling story came up while my husband and I were preparing our “stuff” to take to the tax people.  Sitting by the table, with the adding machine handy, we laid all our papers out and began to tally a years worth of small farm finances.  We stretch this process out over a couple days as we don’t want to drive ourselves crazy all in one day. We usually wait for a bitter cold day or a very snowy day as we also don’t want to “waste” a nice day on paperwork. Every year we comment on the fact that all year we want to make money; but when tax time comes we want it to work out so we get money back.  I guess there is just no satisfying us humans.

It is interesting to see what you have done and where you have been during the past year.  It is amazing how much you can tell from where your checks and your money goes.  It becomes quite easy to see where our priorities are; by following the money.  Sometimes we feel pretty good about it and in the next breath feel somewhat convicted.  Fortunately, we have this new year to do better.

I thought I would google to find a great quote on taxes and found so many it would make an entire post!

I don’t know if I can live on my income or not
— the government won’t let me try it.
~Bob Thaves, “Frank & Ernest”

It’s income tax time again, Americans:
time to gather up those receipts,
get out those tax forms,
sharpen up that pencil,
and stab yourself in the aorta.
~Dave Barry

There were so many I thought I would post the link.  I hope you find them as entertaining as I did and may they brighten your day as you prepare your taxes this season.

http://www.quotegarden.com/taxes.html