Things I Am Learning From Blogging

Black Hills, SD

The Black Hills, SD

I was reflecting on the things I have learned so far and am learning because of writing a blog. (I still think the word “blog” sounds odd.)

I think one of the biggest things I have learned, is to constantly be  looking around in a more intentional way. (Just keeping my eyes open for a potential post!)  A tree is no longer just a tree.  It has become bark, leaves, blooms in season, dead twigs, and all the little bugs that crawl around on it and birds that live in it’s branches.

You see a tree but you also hear a tree as the wind blows through the branches and leaves dance.

The beauty of seeing all the distinctive parts lies in learning to value that it takes every one of those parts to make that tree what it is. Writing this blog has helped me draw parallels to the physical stuff I am dissecting with my eyes; to the life applications I can draw from it.

Spearfish Canyon, SD

Spearfish Canyon, SD

I am learning to better value the relationships with those around me because I have seen a tree doesn’t stand on it’s own and neither do we.  It is made up of all the things you see, hear, touch and smell. I love the smell of apples blossoms.

I am also learning to appreciate the small things in life; like chickens, those first peas making their way through the soil and growing in the garden, the first blooms of spring, an orange colored moon, and a day without Iowa winds.

I find I ask my husband’s opinion more often.  Before I hit that publish button, I have him read through what I have written. He always has some insight that adds to the content I put out. He is a wise man and I am blessed.

Writing this blog, has opened an entire world of other bloggers.  It is still amazing to me; to find that so many others, have the same thoughts I do. They have the same dreams, the same desire to excel at something, the crazy things like reading anything with words – from catsup labels to books, the love of porches and wash on the line, and the same faith.

Blogging, like life, is definitely a learning process. It takes time to figure out what all the icons on that tool bar up top are for. That little “undo” arrow is totally my friend!  Wouldn’t it be great if we had an undo arrow in life?  I would probably have worn mine out long ago.

Experimenting with that tool bar has been great fun. (probably because I have my friend “undo” to fall back on!). When I get really stuck I have the safety net of my daughter-in-law, the web guru.

My family has been incredibly helpful in this journey. I am also finding out my friends and people from my church are full of encouragement.  It is a humbling experience. When I started this venture I wasn’t sure anything I wrote would be anything; anyone wanted to read.  My prayer was to be encouraging, entertaining, have some fun with it and be a witness.

My oldest thought I should have called it Confessions of a Chicken Grandma.  I told him I thought that might be a tad “racy”.  He just grinned and told me “Well, yeah…..draw them in and then tell ’em about Jesus.” He is a quick one!

This Chicken Grandma is very grateful to her readers! I will post a few links to some posts I have enjoyed on other blogs. You will find everything from comedy….to food… to God.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Front Porches

Coconut Macaroons

Brodie Here; Commentary and Contemplation

#TellHisStory

 

 

May you find joy in your weekend.


Two people are better off than one,
for they can help each other succeed.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 NIV

A blog is in many ways a continuing conversation
Andrew Sullivan

I’m Doing A Vendor Fair??!!

DIY Business Card Holder

The last couple weeks have been spent preparing to have a Young Living table at a home school conference vendor fair. Needless to say;  I really am not totally sure what I am doing, as this is new for me. It sometimes seems the older I get, the less I know.

When a friend of mine, who sells Tupperware, approached me about doing this I thought, “Hey, why not?”  As the time draws closer I am scrambling to get ready.  If I am going to do this I want to do it right.

I have haunted Pinterest for ideas to use for displaying the oils and other things to the best advantage.  I got crafty and made myself a business card holder from an old fork. My husband was even slightly impressed with that one.

After rummaging through the old school house that is on our acreage, I found a couple old drawers to use in my display. With a lot of cleaning, a little paint touch up, and some sanding they actually look pretty cool for what I need.

Vintage Drawer Display

My husband suggested finding school related items as this is for a homeschool conference.  A couple tin lunch boxes, chalkboard, vintage school books (ones I used in school! Does this make me vintage?), and a Kindergarten chair later I think I have what I need.

Vintage Books

I also spent time making breath mints for people to sample.  I made mine spearmint flavored and used a small stainless steel funnel to cut them out.  I needed a straw to push the mint out of the funnel and onto the tray.

They are little bits of goodness! Here is the recipe (from Abundant Health) if you would like to give them a try:

Essential Oil Breath Mints
Gum Paste (or recipe below)
Food Coloring (optional)
Essential Oils such as peppermint, cinnamon, spearmint, fennel, ginger, orange, lemon or lime
Powdered sugar (or citric acid for sour flavors)
Instructions:

Pull out section of gum paste size of an egg.  Knead with your hands till pliable.
Add food coloring, if desired. Knead till well blended.
Add 3-4 drops essential oil for mild flavor, 5-8 for intense flavor
Place a little powdered sugar on rolling surface. Use rolling pin to roll out to 1/8 thickness
Cut out mints. Can use a straw or another shape or use knife for small squares
Dust with some powdered sugar so they don’t stick.
Let dry till hard (about 48 hours)

Homemade Gum Paste
4 tsp. water
1 tsp. unflavored gelatin powder
1 tsp. white corn syrup
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Instructions:
Put 4 tsp of water in glass measuring cup placed in small pan filled with an inch of water.
Sprinkle gelatin powder over the 4 tsp. water.
Let sit 5 minutes till looks foamy
Stir in corn syrup
Warm on stove over medium heat till clear,stir frequently
Stir in 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Add little by little, knead with hands till no longer sticky
Once texture is soft and stretchy, it is ready to use
If unable to use quickly, store in plastic bag so it does not dry out.

I will let you know how the weekend went…..once I make it through it.

You either create something and you keep it a secret
and you die with it,
or you can benefit the craft.
Vidal Sassoon

First Harvest Of The Season

IMG_1432

Homegrown Asparagus

 

It is so satisfying to pick and eat what you have grown.

My husband came in this afternoon and asked what I was serving for a vegetable with supper this evening.  (To some of you this meal is known as dinner…..not where I come from…..)  I told him that it was going to be beans I had canned last year.

He gave me the great suggestion that maybe we should have asparagus.  I went out to check the patch and sure enough…plenty of spears were coming up and ready to be picked.

By the time I was done I had picked more than a meal worth!  I am not sure what method you use to prepare your asparagus, but I have been steaming mine ever since my daughter-in-law gave me a steamer basket from Pampered Chef. This seems like a healthy way to prepare asparagus; but when we melt that delicious butter over it,  maybe not so much anymore?

Another recipe I love for asparagus is this one I found on Pinterest for Bacon Wrapped Asparagus.  This one calls for making it in the oven.  I really prefer to wrap them up in foil and do them on the grill.  I do however tweak this recipe for our tastes as my husband really despises garlic and is not fond of soy sauce.  I have posted my tweaked version below.

Picking our patch of asparagus brought back memories of lazy afternoons, years past, spent combing the ditches and line fences in search of those wonderful spears. We would drive past prospective spots and jump out, bag in hand, to get as many as we could.  I have a feeling our boys remember those days tromping through the ditches, hopefully, in a good way.

It was always pretty exciting when you found a patch that contained lots of the really good fat spears instead of those skinny ones.  We’d scramble and look through the grass around that patch a little harder to make sure we didn’t miss any.

We finally got tired of trying to outwit, outplay and outlast all the other asparagus pickers in this area and started are own patch several years ago.  It was one of the best decisions ever!  We get plenty of asparagus and don’t have to worry about the various sprays used in those ditches and along those fields.

I am told an asparagus patch, properly tended, can last for 25 – 30 years……at our age I think we’re gonna be good on that one…….

My husband observed that if we had only caught the fish we also had for supper; we would have picked, caught and/or preserved everything we had for our meal. Our Yukon Gold potatoes from last year are sprouting in the burlap sack but are still nice and firm and oh so good.

The apple crisp we had for dessert came from apples picked from a neighbors’ tree, canned into apple pie filling last fall and enjoyed now.

Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp

 

I’ll get you the recipe for the pie filling and the crisp at a later date.

 

 

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
12 slices bacon
36 Asparagus spears
2/3 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Butter
Divide spears into groups of three
Wrap one slice bacon around each group, secure with toothpick
Place on double layer of foil
Heat brown sugar and butter to boiling
Pour over asparagus
Fold foil over asparagus/bacon groups and seal
Grill till done.
Unfortunately I have never timed this
but they seem to take the same length of time as the pork chops I am grilling do.

Let my words, like vegetables,
be tender and sweet,
for tomorrow I may have to eat them.
–  Author Unknown

For all things produced in a garden,
whether of salads or fruits,
a poor man will eat better that has one of his own,
than a rich man that has none.
–  J. C. Loudoun

Celebrating Earth Day

Flowering Crab

Flowering Crab

 

I wasn’t really sure what to write for my blog post today.  Nothing major really stood out.

I know lots of people planted trees, at least that is what the news said. I kind of grinned at that because my husband was down by the river cutting up a cottonwood tree (He was not able to be in the field due to rain the last couple days). Before you get the idea that his was an “anti” earth day activity, I should tell you about this particular tree.

The cottonwood he was cutting up had fought a battle with a beaver ……the beaver won.  Rather than let a perfectly good tree go to waste, my husband headed down there with his tractor, a hayrack, and his trusty chainsaw.

Cottonwood

Cottonwood

 

This next winter I will be personally grateful to that beaver and to my husband.  That tree will help keep our home warm for quite a few days.

I took my husband’s advice and headed outside with the camera to see what was growing around here.  I was rather surprised to find some things blooming and starting to bloom.

The flowering crab, was a tree we had transplanted three years ago.  My dad had given me his free tiny arbor day trees and this one had survived. Hopefully in the next years it will be shading my chicken coop and keep the girls cool in the hot summer months.

I also found violets blooming, my peonies shooting up through last years dead growth, and of course the very durable dandelion.  I know those yellow flowers might be weeds but they are incredibly cheerful and come summer the goldfinches will love them.

 

 

I have a friend who uses those “weeds” to make wine.  She also told me just today that she had fried some up and they were very tasty.  I have not quite gotten to the point of trying that one yet. I say yet, because …..who knows?

I noticed our asparagus is also popping through the ground. I anticipate with the warm days that are forecasted we will be having a meal of that real soon. I love to make them on the grill. We even have a couple sugar snap peas coming up!

I do have an update on a previous post Trying Something New.  The elderberries are beginning to send out roots!  I am actually really amazed this worked.

 

Elderberry roots

Elderberry Cuttings Taking Root

 

I am looking forward to jam and juice from those berries in the next years.   I am ever hopeful!

The day was so nice we had the patio door open to try warm the house up  a little bit. That part did not quite work but it sure made the house smell nice.   One of the girls decided she might like to celebrate Earth Day by spending it inside.

Heading inside

I am thinking it is definitely time to get that screen out of the rafters in the garage and put it to use.

A big orange moon is coming up, as I write this post, reminding me it is time to lock the girls in for the night.

May you have a blessed weekend!

 

When one tugs at a single thing in nature
he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
John Muir

Chicken Wellies!!

Chicken Wellies

Every so often you receive a gift that is perfect.  The gift that is unexpected and brings a huge smile to your face.  You know….the one that you just grin when you think of it.

A few weeks ago my sister messaged me and asked for my shoe size.  Being a trusting person, I told her and then asked if I could know why she needed that information.  The answer I received was a short, firm  “No”.

My husband and I puzzled over that one till we got a phone call the other night, asking if we were busy. Our answer was “Nope, come on over”.  My house was not really visitor ready. I had nothing for lunch…. but, hey….this was family and they have to love you….no matter what.

So I scrambled to straighten the rooms they would see and put some box brownies in the oven.  Of course, the brownies did not turn out like they should…but, once again….this was family and you know the thought….they have to love you.

When my sister and brother-in-law arrived, she was carrying a white box  which she handed to me.  When I opened the mystery box …..there was a pair of the brightest yellow gardening wellies I have ever seen. They were also covered with chickens! They were amazing.

Of course, I immediately tried them on and they were perfect. I felt like a grade school kid, standing there looking  down at my brand new boots. They are so shiny, yellow and full of chickens.  What is not to love?  My husband tells me that everyone should own something that makes them feel like a kid.  I think he is right on that one.

I wore them doing my chicken chores this morning.  And yes, I also wore a huge smile.  They kind of make me want to go find a mud puddle to jump in……

 

Wellie Inspection

Wellie Inspection by the Girls

I once heard on the radio that a true gift is something that you give expecting nothing in return.  I believe I have just been the recipient of a true gift.  These wellies are so much more than just boots.  They are the blessing of family, the blessing of having someone who really knows you and still loves you.

I will be wearing these boots, hopefully, for a long time.  I have a feeling that every time I put them on I will think of my sister.  I am very sure I will be smiling.  I think I will also have a slight lump in my throat because they will also remind me of the blessing.

When I look at my boots they will make me remember to be on the lookout for how I can pay it forward and bless someone else.  I am learning that blessings can come in many different forms.  Sometimes they are bright yellow and have chickens on them.

 

.

Give away your life;
you’ll find life given back,
but not merely given back
—given back with bonus and blessing.
Giving, not getting, is the way.
Generosity begets generosity.”
Luke 6:38b
The Message

 

Pipestone National Monument

 

Flowers by Quarry

This past week I was challenged by my sister to do a 7 day Facebook Nature Photo Challenge.  Seems like people (me included) are sick of hearing all the negative stuff that is out there in the media and this is an alternative to it.

I must admit, I have been having a great time looking through photos to find some of my favorite nature shots. At this point I am on Day 5 and have posted pictures from different places we have been. Some of those I will be sharing on later posts.

One of my all time favorite places to go, and to take pictures is Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota.  We used to haul our boys there, often, when they were small.  The history of the area is fascinating and the hiking trail was a bonus.  The wide open places were a great place for small boys with lots of energy.

This is a place where the Indian nations used to come and quarry the pipestone used for their ceremonial pipes.  We were told that even nations that traditionally warred against each other;  laid down their weapons when they came together in this place and were at peace. There might be something to be learned from this bit of history.  Just think if we had a place that we could all come together and put aside the bickering and fighting.

The variety in the landscape is really neat.  You get to walk up rocky stairways, past a noisy stream that is bordered by flowers, through trees and out into the open prairie.

Some of the quarries are still being worked, by hand, to bring out the pipestone.  This photo of a workman’s tools is still one of my favorites.

Workman's Tools Pipestone Nat'l Monument

If you take the time to walk through the visitor center you can watch a film on the history of the region.  You can also watch and speak with various artists who are carving the pipestone they have quarried from their sites.

My husband and I are always on the lookout for an interesting day out. If you are in the area and looking for something to do for a day trip; this is a great place to go. History plus hiking plus beautiful views….a win any way you look at it.

http://www.nps.gov/pipe/index.htm

do something good.
Embrace peace
—don’t let it get away!..
Psalm 34:14b
The Message

 

 

A Hodgepodge Week

Making Yogurt.JPG

Did you ever have a week that you don’t have one particular project to work on?  You know, that week where you are just finishing up random projects that have been started waaaay back when.  Or that week that you have things to do that need to get done, don’t take lots of time, but you have been putting off? And then there are those things that just pop up unexpectedly.

I think I am having one of those weeks.  My chickens are on overdrive in their egg production, the head cook from school asked if I could come and help out, and my husband tilled the garden so we could plant potatoes. My kombucha needed rebrewing, and I am out of homemade yogurt…………and the list goes on.

I decided I would freeze some of those eggs.  I had read in a newspaper article that you could do this by lightly beating the eggs and adding a dash of salt.  You then bag them up, freeze and use later when the girls aren’t producing quite so prolifically.  I am sure that time will come in the middle of this summer when it is so hot they don’t even want to do their job.  That time also hits in the middle of the winter when it is so cold it is hard for them to just keep warm, much less lay eggs.

Eggs Ready To Freeze.JPG

So today, I am making hay while the sun shines; or should I say freezing eggs while the hens are laying?  I decided to freeze them in groups of three so I can use them for recipes in cakes or bars.  I have done this before and it actually works really well.

On Monday, in the cold and wind, we finally got our potatoes planted. Typically we get them in pretty close to Good Friday, but not this year.  This year we are trying half Yukon Gold and half Kennebec. In the past we were pretty sold on the Yukon Gold but my brother-in-law told us that Kennebec is the way to go. It is kind of our trial run to see which one produces the best.  Will let you know in the fall which one is the winner.

My husband had really hoped to plant potatoes in his shirtsleeves but he had to give in to wearing a coverall…… it just was a coverall kind of day.  We had to get this done at the beginning of the week, as he was going to spend the rest of this week hauling manure. I also got the peas in so I am feeling pretty satisfied on that score.

For a few days this week I got to help out in the kitchen at the high school when someone needed to be out for a funeral.  You can plan for weddings, birthdays, proms, etc but you just really cannot plan for a death. It is good to be able to help out during those times. For me, the timing worked out really good, as I got to town and delivered eggs to people who wanted to purchase them.

 

Kombucha

Kombucha

I took the time one afternoon to deal with my jar of “booch” I now have a new batch of kombucha brewing, in a pickle jar, on my counter and it is time to move on to making yogurt. I was fortunate to find a Donvier yogurt maker at a second-hand store for 5 dollars last year. It works great!
The yogurt is wonderful to use in smoothies.

The yogurt recipe I use, is as follows:
4 cups skim or 1% milk heated to 185°
let cool to 110°
Add 2 large Tablespoons active plain yogurt
Put in containers in yogurt maker for 9 hours.

 

I actually love weeks like this.  I love the variety of the different things I get to do.  It is never boring and you just never know what will turn up next that needs to be done.  I really laughed when I googled the word “hodgepodge”.  I found out it means “a confused mixture”.  That does really sum up this past week.

May you have a blessed weekend and find your own hodgepodge of things to do!

 

 

 

Work willingly at whatever you do,
as though you were working for the Lord
rather than for people.
Colossian 3:23
New Living Translation