Joy In The Mail

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This past week has been really busy. After a very long winter and an unreal wet spring, the farmers in our area were finally back in the field.

The river has been behaving again and so have the days. They have been breezy, warm (almost hot) and drying. There are still many wet holes in fields but farmers are now farming around them.

Some farmers do venture close to those muddy areas and do end up getting stuck. It has been a very normal thing this year to see Facebook posts with photos of tractors and equipment up their axles in mud.

The other day, my husband came to the house and said he needed my assistance. He and his tractor had ventured to close to an area that looked fine, but was way too wet. We did get it unstuck without to much trouble and it was decided that area would not get planted this year. (There is probably a life lesson in there somewhere.)

I am also still waiting to finish planting my vegetable garden, but I hesitate to mention it because I need the assistance of my farmer husband and he is quite preoccupied this week.  I know it will eventually all get planted….late…but that is better than not at all!

In the middle of all this odd planting season a bit of joy arrived in my mailbox. The picture above is a card from a blogging friend of mine. (moreinkplease). She knew I had been making jean quilts for my grandkids and she also knew the challenges we were facing with farming this year.

I am in awe of her talent at card making  skills (and yes she does sell them and I hope she puts a link to that in the comment section!) Here is the link for her Facebook page…Late Blooming Designs by beverly. I am also loving how she knew exactly the words to write to ease this farm wife’s heart and soul. She is an amazing example of how a few words can say and do so much.

Let’s finish this week following her example. Let’s encourage each other through the hard parts. Let’s see those who are stuck in the mud holes of life and the literal mud holes. Let’s offer words of hope. It doesn’t have to be big….a quilted card can bring a lot of joy! 

“Be humble,
be simple,
and bring joy to others.”
– Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat

 

 

 

 

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

 

The Persistence of Spring

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The last two days have been absolutely beautiful around here. Yesterday we were close to 70 degrees. I am not quite sure if we made it there or not; but it was wonderful. The sun was bright and shining, the winds blew gently (for Iowa) and the mud on the yard and the road was actually drying.

During the last weeks, I have noticed that the tulips I planted in a pot were starting to come up. One even decided to bloom!  I was rather amazed they actually grew. My mom gave the bulbs to me last fall and I never got them in the ground due to being ill.

I decided to try them in a pot. I had planned to put the pot in the garage so they would be cold but I never did as I was afraid they would freeze…..so that pot just sat in the back hallway biding it’s time. I felt rather like a mother hen watching over that pot as the bulbs started sending up shoots.

I also had Gerber daisies in pots in the house this past winter. My husband took them upstairs last fall and placed them by a south window so I could attempt to keep them alive for this coming summer. If it had not been for my husband constantly reminding me to water them…..those daisies would have been long dead.IMG_5575

Yesterday he went upstairs and hauled them back down for me and put them on the deck. There was something so satisfying about working on those pots. I spent time trimming away the dead crunchy leaves, picking out the dead bugs that seemed to have accumulated through the winter and watering what was left.

I love the fact that under all the dead stuff were brand new fuzzy little leaves just starting to unfurl. It was amazing to me how much life there seemed to be and how ready those plants were to spring back to life. They really are very persistant.

Maybe that is what I love about Spring.  It is persistant. It always comes no matter how long or how hard the Winter has been. Spring is life….spring is the hope of abundance…spring is a promise.

Our lives are much like the seasons. We spend time in winter where it is dark, long, cold and just plain hard.  And then comes Spring in all it’s glory. You hardly dare believe it has actually arrived. If you are like me you are encouraged by the signs of life that Spring brings to the world around us and into our lives.

May today find you overjoyed to be in that Spring of life. May signs of new life be evident around you. May you inhale the fragrance of the promise that is Spring.

Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection,
not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.
– Martin Luther

 

 

 

 

 

Canning time

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Once again we are in the middle of the wonderful season known as canning season. My yellow and green beans seem to be quite prolific this year.

I tried planting them a bit differently this year. I usually do the square foot method – a 4×4 foot square with each  1×1 foot square having 9 plants. I love this method as once the beans are big they tend to squeeze out the weeds….and I really do not like weeding in the humid summer weather.

This year I did a 2 foot wide row. I have found it is so much easier to reach all the way to the middle..much easier than a 4 foot wide row.  (This width still gives me that canopy that squeezes out the weeds.) I am wondering if that is also why I have a lot more beans on those plants this year?

This past week I did not pay quite enough attention to my produce picking and discovered that some of those beans had gotten quite large. Years ago my Grandma taught us to not let those large beans go to waste. She had a wonderful gizmo which she called a snijboontje cutter. Basically, it turned the large beans into french cut beans and made them useful again.

Grandma’s bean cutter was the only one in the family and so it dutifully made the rounds during bean canning season. I remember the aunts asking to use it and once the grandkids grew up and gardened it was passed around to that generation.

When Grandma sold her house, years ago and moved to a nursing home no one could remember who had her bean cutter. I am still not sure where it ended up. As her cutter was no longer an option, I found one of my own while on a vacation to the Black Hills several years ago.

For some reason, every time I use my bean cutter it brings Grandma to mind. Her lessons of thrift and using everything have been ingrained into my gardening and canning. I find it hard to toss food if it can be used in another way or another recipe. Fortunately for me…my chickens never let anything go to waste!!

I also had the thought that our lives are a lot like a garden and canning. Sometimes the produce isn’t exactly what we had hoped for. Those beans have rust spots, bug holes or just plain get too large to use in the way you want.

It is a consolation to me that even when our lives have problems, there is always something God can do with us. Like my over large beans getting run through a bean cutter…God can take our lives and circumstances and make them useful in another way. It is not always comfortable getting run through that “bean cutter” but it sure does turn  something less than perfect into something He can use.

I wonder if I love gardening and canning so much because it brings back so many memories…those lessons of thrift from Grandma and the way she taught them? I also wonder if I love it because it reminds me that God can use anything in my life for His purposes…..either way…..it is a wonderful time of year.

 

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go;
they merely determine where you start.
Nido Qubein

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/nido_qubein_178331?src=t_circumstances

 

Boundaries and Fences

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I spent a little time this past week catching up in my garden. This included hoeing to get rid of those pesky weeds that seem to spring up the minute you turn your back. It also included picking my beans.

As I was standing in the fenced-in, rabbit proof portion of my garden (at least I thought it was rabbit proof) I heard the noise of something smashing against that chicken wire fence. Every time I looked the animal seemed to have disappeared.

I finally discovered a rabbit hiding in my beans and with the help of my husband; that rabbit was escorted out of the garden. (No he was not harmed in his removal.) I proceeded to finish with my gardening chores and had a little time to ponder as I did so.

It kind of amazed me that a rabbit actually made it through the fence that we had so carefully built and put into place. It also caught my attention that once that rabbit had made it into the enclosure he could not figure out how to get out.

I think our lives can be a lot like that. There are rules/bounderies set in place that are intended to keep us safe….much like the fence was intended to keep my beans etc. safe. I wondered why so many times we look at those “fences” as something that is meant to keep us locked in, rather than to keep the “rabbits” of our lives out, and to keep us safe from those “rabbits”?

Thinking that over, gave me a new perspective on the boundaries that we all have in place in our lives. It made me think of the parent who allows their child to do anything; because they feel that to discipline them, means they don’t love them. It made me think of the friend who is afraid to speak truth in love to a friend because they are afraid it will ruin the friendship and hurt the other person.

Reality….setting boundaries for our children, for ourselves and for each other speaks love. It says we care enough to hold ourselves and others accountable for actions taken and words spoken.

I used to tell my children that if I did not love them I would not give two beans what they did. I also told them, that I would be loving them till the day I died so, unfortunately (or fortunately??) for them, I would be holding them accountable for that length of time. Hopefully, as parents, they now appreciate that logic more than they did when they lived under our roof!

In my pondering I also thought about the fact that even though we do build those fences of protection..life happens and rabbits do end up where they should not be. When that happens….it is always good to get help to escort those “rabbits” right out of your life…..because that is what friends and family are for.

May this week find you checking your “fences” and making sure you have someone to help you with the “rabbits” in your life! May your boundaries be clear and your fences be strong.

Boundaries are to protect life, not to limit pleasures.
Edwin Louis Cole

Gardens and Patience

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It seems like the last few weeks have been a time of playing catch-up. The fields are growing and green and the lawn and weeds have also been growing profusely.

We use a push mower; so mowing our farm yard takes pretty much an entire day with my husband and I kind of tag teaming the job. For some reason we kind of have our own “zones” that we seem to be in charge of mowing.

The areas I mow….I tend to bag, so I can use the grass on my garden. I have also been spending time weeding and hoeing and trying to stay ahead of those same weeds  so those weeds don’t take over my garden.

In my last post I mentioned we had a nest of baby bunnies in our back yard…not really too far from our garden! As anyone, who gardens, knows….bunnies and gardens don’t mix at all!

My husband has come up with a wonderful solution and has been making garden panels from 10 foot pieces of lumber and chicken wire. I absolutely love those panels as they are easy to handle and work great for keeping the rabbits from eating the produce.

This has been a strange year for gardening. The winter seemed to last forever so most of my seeds and plants got in very late. We usually get our potatoes in Easter weekend…this year we were an entire month later!

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My potatoes look pretty dismal. They came up so spotty and I finally became impatient and took a spade to dig where a potato should be. I discovered that the seed potatoes were rotting in the soil!

I ended up replanting in all those spaces because having potatoes come up late is preferable to weeds taking over that space. Now it looks like I am growing orange flags…..at least this way I will know where to look for those tiny shoots once they decide to come up.

I found it hard to understand why some of those plants were doing so well and a little ways away the other ones were rotting. There is probably a life lesson there somewhere. Why do some people do wonderful in a situation and the next person does not? Sometimes the answer to those questions…garden and otherwise are not so easy to find.

I have also found that a garden is a great place to talk over life with yourself and with God. For some reason it seems like the perfect place to hold those conversations. I always kind of wonder if it is because it is quiet out in my back yard. The sounds I hear are the little wren irately scolding me, the wind in the evergreen trees and the distant sounds of tractors and equipment in the fields.

There is a slower pace in a garden. Spending time hand picking weeds from around tiny pea and bean plants forces me to slow down and persevere. Time spent in a garden gives me lots of time to ponder things.

I love the end product of my garden…but truth be told…I also love the process of getting to those canned goods. It is time well spent…it is time that is good for my soul.

May your week be filled with things that require patience and may that patience give you time to ponder. May your life also be filled with growth…lush and green…even with a few weeds tossed in!

 

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
— May Sarton

 

The best place to find God is in a garden.
You can dig for him there.
George Bernard Shaw

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/george_bernard_shaw_161677?src=t_gardening

 

 

Chicken Coops and Change

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These last few weeks have seemed to be speeding by. I am pretty sure it isn’t because we are getting older and moving slower.  (It might be, but I am not going to admit to that!) I think it is just the time of year; when time is growing short, to get outside things done.

We seem to be busy from morning light to the sun going down. We have been spending time by my brother-in-law cutting downed ash trees to be used to help heat our home this winter.

We have also been spending time harvesting soybeans, cleaning up the remaining things in the garden, working on our closet (when it rains…and yay…it is finished!), and just generally getting things ready for the winter season.

Yesterday, time was spent prepping the chicken coop for the winter season. The nesting boxes were cleaned out. We scooped up the old bedding from the floor and used my trusty wheelbarrow to transport it to the garden for fertilizer for the next summer crop. Actually my husband is the fertilizer transporter….he has wonderful technique in spreading it in a nice layer over the garden.

During the hot summer months my husband changes out a glass window for a screen window so the girls get a little breeze during those balmy days. Now that those days are gone, he switched the window back to the glass one. I couldn’t believe how much difference it made when I went to lock them in at night.

The coop cleaning is something that is done twice a year….spring and fall. I have come to expect this to happen sometime between  soybean harvest and corn harvest. I try to be prepared for that day when my husband comes in and announces that today is the day for coop cleaning.

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It is wonderful to go into the chicken coop those first days after it has been cleaned. Everything smells to pine or cedar shavings. The bedding on the floor is clean and dry and the nesting boxes look so inviting.

I don’t know if the girls really appreciate it or not….but I know that I do! I know they kick up a fuss while we are cleaning their home.  They come in and inspect…… often, voicing their opinions with loud clucking and fussing.

Watching them kick up a fuss I started to wonder if we kick up the same fuss when things get cleaned out in our lives? Do we wander about protesting loudly about the changes that are happening? Do we fuss and squawk about it, when in reality, our lives will be so much better when it is finished?

Are we reluctant to release the old way of life for a better one? Or do we firmly dig in our heels and make change more difficult than it needs to be? I know that I, for one, find change is sometimes hard. I like the familiar even if it is not the best for me. Like my girls…..I don’t like the unknown that change can hold.

One of my favorite songs about how hard change can be; is sung by Sara Groves……”Painting Pictures of Egypt.” When I hear that song I realize I am not so different from the Israelites in the wilderness.

Hopefully we learn to not fear the “cleaning” that our lives sometimes need. Hopefully we learn to accept those changes with grace and a curiosity about what life holds next. May we see the blessing in the changes. May we look forward to the future and be grateful for the past.

 

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” 
― Corrie ten Boom

 

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28