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

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

 

Holding Fast

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The days may be hot, but my husband and I are preparing for the cold days to come. We have been spending our mornings splitting the wood that he cut late last fall.

My job in this endeavor is not too tough. I get to just sit on my chair; and push and pull the lever that runs the wood splitter. My husband has the much harder job of lifting each log and placing it in the “cradle” to be split.

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Some of those logs are not too big but others are pretty large, heavy and cumbersome. It does not help that the weather has been pretty toasty and very humid. I have discovered that each one of those logs is different.

Some are nice and round and split like a dream. Others are kind of gnarly. Some look fine on the outside; but once the maul starts splitting through them, you discover the remains of a branch that the tree had at one time. The maul kind of has to groan it’s way through those logs.

The fact that I get to sit and push/pull that lever gives me ample time to think about things and life in general. I kind of pondered on the fact of how tightly those branches were fixed in that log. They do not let go of their hold on the log without a fight.

My mind wandered over to what it means to be firmly rooted and I am pretty sure I was given a visual image of that with those logs. I was also amazed how deep inside the tree those branches start. They were right at the heart of the tree. There is something profound about that fact.

I kind of wonder if we all need to be like those branches…. firmly rooted to something solid…something that does not shift with the whims of political climate or opinions.

May we be branches that start near the heart of the Creator and let us hold fast to that place. Let us put up a fight when something tries to tear us from that Tree. The world may shift and the world may change, but the heart of the Creator remains the same…..and I am eternally grateful.


Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm,
for God can be trusted to keep his promise.
Hebrews 10:23 NLT

Lessons from Caterpillars and Geese

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A Butterfly in the Making

The other day my husband asked if I was busy. I was, but when he has something he wants to show me it is usually pretty good. I put my boots on, as I was not sure where we would be heading.

We headed for the river, which is not that far from our house. He had spotted some milkweeds that morning and discovered there were three monarch caterpillars on them.

That might not seem like a big deal to some people; but for us it was. We have noticed there are not as many monarch butterflies around as there used to be and spotting those caterpillars just made our day.

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A family of Canadian geese

As we were standing there watching them hungrily devour the milkweed leaves I glanced at the opposite shore of the river. There was an entire family of Canadian Geese quietly floating along the bank.

We were not sure if it was mom or dad at the front but they were at each end of their brood of goslings. I headed back to the house to grab the camera so I could snap some pictures of both wonderful things.

It was so much fun to stand and watch the display of wildlife in that small area. It was a marvel to know those caterpillars would end up as a chrysalis and be beautiful butterflies this summer.

It was something to see the care that the parents of those gosling were taking with their young. They were so graceful as they glided along the riverbank to hide under an overhanging tree.

I often wonder if God knew we would need these things in nature to ground us and leave us standing in wonder at how it all works. It takes us back to the basic things…the wonder of being a child and seeing new life around us.

The metamorphisis of catepillars into butterflies let’s us know that just because we are in a certain spot in this life….it might not always be this way. Things that seem ordinary can turn into something beautiful.

Seeing that family of geese reminds me how much we are cared for by the Creator of this world. If He cares enough to give such good parents to those goslings…how much more He cares for us!

I love finding the lesson that is waiting for us just outside our doors and windows. I love seeing how our life seems to reflect what is happening in creation. Let’s spend the rest of this week opening our eyes and our hearts to the lessons around us.

In every walk with nature
one receives far more than he seeks.
John Muir

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/john_muir_108391

 

 

The Farmer

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Last week, one day,  I was sitting on the porch, drinking my morning tea, watching my husband till the bottom field. It was a beautiful morning….sunny, warm  and to early for the pesky gnats to be out.

As I was sitting there, in the quiet of the morning, with only the tractor humming in the distance; I had time to sit and think.

There is a beauty to the tilling of the earth. The debris left from last years’ harvest is disked under to become food for the next harvest. Black dirt is made ready for the seeds that will be planted and then grow to produce an abundant harvest.

Our lives are much like that pattern of the seasons. There are times when they look messy, dirty and unkempt. “Stuff” just lays there…seeming useless and ugly. “Stuff” just looks to be worthless and spent.

One day the Farmer decides it is time to till the field of our lives. He tills and rips through our mess…sometimes painfully tills. Our lives are transformed into beautiful productive fields…ready to accept the seeds of goodness and faithfulness.

We may not always be grateful…at least I am not, at the time when the mess is being cleaned up and ripped through. Looking back, it does make sense to turn things upside down to get to the beauty within.  It makes us who we are….it makes us productive and ready to be used.

I am so grateful the Farmer doesn’t leave me as I am. I am grateful He loves me enough to dig through the mess because He sees what lies underneath. He sees the possible…the potential…the worth.

If life finds you in the mess of what has gone before…take heart. The Farmer will not leave you there. If you are willing He will dig to get to the beauty that is within.

If life finds you in the middle of a rainy season, a drought, or some place you don’t want to be…give it time. The sunny days will be back, the warm breeze will be soft on your skin and there will be time to sit and enjoy the reality of where you are.

“Sometimes it is hard
to give up the dream,
for the better reality
that God has in store.”
Faye aka Chicken Grandma

 

Reclaimed Treasures

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This past week was wonderful. We had a few days that were absolutely perfect, weather wise. It was dry and sunny with a light breeze and it was glorious.

I took advantage of those days and spent as much time outside as I could. The lawn got mowed. (Which is more work than it sounds; as we use a push mower for our farm….and it is not self-propelled.) I got a few more things planted in my garden and I had a great time potting herbs. I planted chives, rosemary, mint, thyme and have one pot just waiting for sage.

The pots I used were saved from the junk pile of my in-laws several years ago. They were the pots we all bought in the 80’s that came from Mexico. A couple were slightly charred and one is pretty rugged looking. (I told my husband it had character.) I had some fun-colored spray paint on hand; and set about sprucing them up a bit.

It is always amazing to me what a bit of paint can do for things. It does not completely cover the flaws and that is okay. It does renew those items and I am also good with that!

I have a feeling we are a bit like those pots…at least I am. We might be a wee bit worn or a lot worn. We might have dents and dings, scratches and scars and other flaws but with a bit of paint, also known as love, we are made beautiful again.

It is wonderful to know that with time and love, we are renewed…not like brand new but we are reclaimed. Our lives are still flawed; but they are beautiful and have purpose. It is also good to remember that perhaps we can help in the restoring of someone else.

Like my pots, let’s look for the beauty that may not be readily in view. Let’s allow things to get “messy”….because restoration is messy and takes time….but the end result is worth it. Let’s see the blessing in the cleaning, the painting and planting that makes us reclaimed treasures.

People, even more than things, have to be restored,
renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed;
never throw out anyone.
– Audrey Hepburn