Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Preserving Our Harvest....A Family Affair

A family that works together, plays together!  Around here we find so much joy and humor mixed in with the work behind our garden!  These kids so easily make us smile!  To help you understand just what I'm talking about, let me take you through these pictures of last night's 'work'!

No story could be complete without a 'before' picture.  So here's a snapshot of just some of the bounty!  The kids enjoy picking vegetables and bringing them in to me!  We have a few barbie doll squash buried in there and if you look closely you just might catch a glimpse of the giggles that accompanied the picking and sorting of some very crook-ed neck squash!
They've turned into awesome little helpers on the kitchen end of the harvest also!  Before I knew it, they were making and mixing the batter mix for the fried squash ON THEIR OWN!  Aiden knew exactly how he was flavoring and Gracie girl also did a great job although we did have to remove the Tony's seasoning from her little hands!  They even had their own little system of battering and shaking going on!

Aiden's favorite part of this is quoted as, "that I like to put it in the cornmeal".  And Gracie's favorite part was gutting the bell peppers of their center and seeds!  It was fun to watch, she was serious about it and sure knew how to get the job done!  And for the Eskimo gear.....well, your guess is as good as mine, but it sure makes for a cute picture and proof that my little girl is all about changing her clothes 10 times a day!  She's that girl that experiments with the outfits in her closet all day long, putting them to good use in the yard, garden, and pretending she's coon or hog hunting.....in her Sunday best!
Our first ever pepper sauce!  See how the bottom is still turning from bright green to the final result?  By this morning, all but the very bottom was the lighter green.  We stuffed the bottle with Cayenne peppers with their tops broken off, a couple of garlic cloves, and one banana pepper for some sweetness.  We boiled white vinegar and poured it in with a funnel.  We were sure to run hot water over the outside of the bottle first, to get it ready for the heat.  And I learned that as the peppers soak up the vinegar and expand, your sauce level falls, so I heated a little more vinegar and added it probably about an hour later.  This is our first try, so I will be sure to update this post on how it turns out!  Also, I would like to keep a few Cayennes on the plant until they turn red to add to the next batch for color!  This bottle first contained some red wine vinegar so it had a little plastic pour top!  I soaked the label off, washed, and now I have the perfect bottle for Pepper Sauce!
Anyone wondering where Aiden has gone in the last two pictures need wonder no more!  This poor, overworked farm boy!  The job of late night preserving just proved a little too labor intensive for this guy!  As for his sisters Tinkerbell blanket, I do plan to print and save this picture....just in case I need some leverage in his teen years!  As for Cass, he's tucked away in bed, quiet and cozy for the most part of this whole ordeal!
The after picture!  We have all varieties of blanched squash for use in stewing or any other recipe I choose.  We also made battered squash for frying, although I already see how next time I'll need to leave the bags with air so the pieces will better freeze separately.  We washed and cut our squash not too soon before the water was ready, poured in boiling water to blanch for 3 minutes, then into cold water with ice for about 5 minutes until cold again.  That stopped the hot water from cooking the veggies too much.  Then, we bagged and in the case of the squash to fry, we battered first in a mix of cornmeal, Tony's, garlic powder, and black pepper!  For the green peppers, we only blanched about 1 and 1/2 minutes, I figured since the pieces were smaller and thinner that would be a wise try.  And the directions for the pepper sauce are above.  This is our first round with freezing, so again I'll be sure to update this post at a later date with what has worked best and what improvements we will use next time!
 This was the harvest within the time of a week for our family.  With the rising price of food, you can't beat the economic sense behind this!  Even more important, I guarantee that these here vegetables will provide more wholesome, trustworthy, and safe nourishment for my family than anything we could buy even 'fresh' at the grocery story today.  But perhaps the most priceless part of it all is the time, work, and play spent as a family nourishing, harvesting, and storing these vegetables.  We're loving it.  Memories are being made, life lessons being learned, and family being strengthened.  Priceless!

I can't continue sharing without throwing a thank you note into this post for my sweet little sister.  I would say baby sister, but she's surely not that anymore!  This household and garden wouldn't be very functionable right now if it wasn't for her!  Other than a setback last week, I feel myself getting a little stronger each day.  It's slow going, but I am healing.  And in the process, my sister feels like Cinderella! :)  But as I keep reminding her......just think of how indebted I'm going to be for her services!  I say this with a laugh, as I am so thankful that she's been here to help us!  But maybe not as thankful as my husband and kids!
Aunt Nessie and Gracie girl!  Oh how she loves being right at her side!  Aren't they beautiful?
Cass and his silly Aunt "Na-nee"! He's taken right to her, it's so neat how they know who loves them even when they're so small!
 Now onto share a few pictures of the kids and our quickly growing litter of pups!

But wait first.....do you have service in here?  I think I have 4 bars!  Oh there we go, that's good reception!

Can you hear me now?  There's no better service than this service! ;)

And there's my boys......doing what they love best.....being boys!

A rare but priceless quiet moment around here!  Aiden loves to read!  I love to read!  Readers raise readers!  Camping out in the tent Aunt Nessie helped them build yesterday proved for some good quiet time in the middle of a scorching hot day!

And here's the big little puppies as they continue to grow!  Nessie's become quite attached to one of these little ones and not wanting to see us let him go!  The joys and sorrows in puppyland!

 And for a final thought of sweetness to share with you today.  Piled up on the couch as I try to balance healing and doing, I was reminded of just why I have nothing to complain about.  This sweet little face ran towards me with a smile that lit up my whole day.  The kind of smile that comes from the very inside out, that speaks of excitement and a growing self confidence.  And the daintiest little bouquet of flowers is thrust out into my hands accompanied by these words....

  "You the most boo-i-ful Mommy eh-er!"

And my day is perfected!  I love my kids.  I love our home.  I love this family.  So much to be thankful for.  Thank you Lord for every part of this perfect day!

And don't forget to stop by over at Raising Homemakers this week for some awesome giveaways!  It's their 1 year anniversary week and today's giveaways include some awesome parenting resources and great books from Doorposts!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sharing some great reading!

So I want to take a minute to share some great reading I've found!  It's taken me a little while to get accustomed to the 'blogging' world but I think I'm making progress!  So to share some of my favorites, I hope you'll too enjoy!  Remember they're only as far away as your fingertips are from your keyboard!  Just click on the buttons and it should link you right to them!

Homestead Revival was one of my first blogs to read!  And look where I've gone since then!  This is a great site about getting back to the basics of living off the land, strengthening the family, and building community.  But I could never do her justice, so give the site a visit and know this is where you will find great encouragement, weekly homestead barn hops, preparedness challenges, and much more!

Another of the first blogs I was ever introduced to is Country Blossom!  She encourages me towards simplicity and such and I love her updates.  Very much grounded in her faith and family, I enjoy reading her posts about family and homemaking!


Now onto Raising Homemakers!  I am proud to be raising a homemaker in Gracie!  There's nothing wrong with her wanting to grow up to be a Mommy!  Too often today this calling to raise our children and build our homes is overlooked, mocked, and under appreciated for the glory that it brings the Lord!  This is a great week to check out their site!  It's their 1st Anniversary and they're hosting some great giveaways!  They also do a weekly linkup on Wednesdays!
                                                                         Raising Homemakers

The next one caught my attention with her book and postings on raising boys!  I love the authors scriptural and biblical perspectives at Warrior Prayers!  I plan to and look forward to reading her book and taking the 21 day prayer challenge for my boys! Just glanced and saw that her next challenge begins June 8th!  Can't wait!


This next one caught my attention just days ago and I don't know if I've ever felt so at home in a blog as I did at A Holy Experience!  I've been introduced to the world of Upside Down Blogging and I'm hooked!  I love the authors honesty and can relate so much to her feelings!  I look forward to reading more!

         holy experience

There's a few for you and I do hope you enjoy them as much as I do!


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Thinking

Today, I'm admittedly not where I want to be.  Well, hypothetically that is.  I am exactly where I want to be, I'm just not capable of doing what I want to be doing.  But apparently, this IS what I'm supposed to be doing.  I can't change the fact that I'm stuck on the couch, I can however change how I look at today.  God doesn't make mistakes and I know He hasn't forgotten about me or left me out to dry with yesterday's laundry.  That leaves only one option....I must be exactly where I'm SUPPOSED to be today.  I do know, that regardless of my attitude and emotions (trust me, they've been all over the place) I AM exactly where God called me to be today!  And my choice is in how to take that, how to find His purpose in this, and above all how to make sure that my life today brings Him glory.

For today I am reminded......

And we know that all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Knowing that He WILL finish what He has started, I find comfort in knowing that somehow, this is all part of a great big plan....

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me; thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever; forsake not the works of thine own hands.
Psalm 138:8

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

In these days of not being able to do the work I'm accustomed to, or to be who I feel I need to be for those around me, I find myself feeling kind of helpless.  But you see, when I'm helpless and don't know what to do or how to make it happen, our good Lord has me covered!  That's a wonderful security I find in trying to live His will and not my own!

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities ; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:24-27

I've been so blessed to feel, hear, and see the hand of God in my life.  You see, I know what I'm supposed to be doing with my days, and this is just it.  My first and foremost ministry and calling in life is to be a wife and a mother.  And I thank you Lord for such a perfect place to be....this life and family are more than I could have ever asked for.  So amidst the frustration and sadness of not being able to do what I think I need to do, I know.  I know that it will be okay, that we will be okay.  Being a Christian was never supposed to make life easier or make me perfect.  Instead, it insures my future and gives me a hope when things seem hopeless!  For my imperfections are what make me in need of a savior to turn to each and every day!  In the meantime, I also know this....

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

From my heart to yours and so much bigger than any of my discontentment in recovering, is this....

Super baby!  All of a sudden, we have a big little boy!  My baby has turned into one of the big kids, or so he thinks!  Especially when it comes to rough housing with Daddy!

Have I ever mentioned that I have FIVE kids!  This little family tradition we have equates to a nightly fit of giggles for all involved or watching from the outside!

I still can't figure out whose the biggest kid of them all!!!!

And the garden continues to grow!  The kids' sunflowers are blooming!

There's nothing better than this!

Ta-Dah!!!!  Presenting today's harvest!  Tomorrow will be the day to start preserving!  I can do alot to help!  My slicing, dicing, and instruction giving skills are in no way connected to my stomach muscles! ;)

Pile of Kids!  Oh how I wish I could have captured all five smiles at once.  But I'll take what I can get here!

Here's to a wonderful week for us all!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's all coming together! My outdoor kitchen that is!

I'm so excited to share what my awesome hubby has been up to out back these last few days!  First I'll admit that I'm not the world's best bed rest patient at all.  (Gena, maybe we'd both be more successful if we started a competition of who could behave the most?) I've been much more anxious and antsy to be outside than I ever would have imagined!  I'm paying for it today, as yesterday I was back and forth to enjoy our new addition more than I should have been....which was any at all.  It's the stairs and the sloped yard that I'm supposed to be avoiding and now I know why!  You'd never believe me if I told you how often and how many of your stomach muscles you use everyday unaware and trust me when I tell you that this is a perfect example.  So, back to the couch and complete recovery obedience I go....with the pain and lesson learned countenance to accompany me!  Now back to my outdoor kitchen......

Tommy at the completion stage of this project!  Out here will be my outdoor stove, sink, and counter tops to do all of our processing and canning on!  Isn't it beautiful?  The flowers were an added touch that just made my day!  I had mentioned that I love the posts of our chicken house, so instead of buying posts, I'd love for him to do the same out here.  And he went above and beyond with this!  He and Gracie found, cut, and moved these tree trunks themselves.  It's more beautiful than I ever could have imagined!  Thank you Tommy!

And thank you to these kids also!  Aiden and Gracie worked so hard yesterday and were so proud and happy to be a part of building this for their Mommy!  I love the sense of accomplishment in their eyes!  And I LOVE the pieces of wood they used for the posts!  This is a place we will love and enjoy as a family for years to come!

Isn't it beautiful?  It even has lights!  Poor Tommy though.....he's now revealed his carpentry skills to me so the secret is out!  I hope he's as proud of his work as he should be!

And the harvest begins!  We have straight neck, crook neck, and zucchini squash, a green bell pepper, and banana, cayenne, and jalapeno peppers today!  Can't wait to start experimenting on ways to use and preserve all of this goodness!

Cass lovin' on his bubba!  These brothers sure do love each other!  Such a sweet baby brother!

Ye are the light of the world.  A city thats set on a hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 6:14-16

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Today I count blessings!

Today, I count my blessings.  First and above all, we have a healthy strong baby niece or nephew growing as we speak in Mama's belly.  If you look closely at the picture below, focus in on the beautiful Mama on the right.  This is my sister in law Gena, and that there bump on her belly is her first baby, who will be 24 weeks this Thursday.  Baby Tucker Wade or Ivy Grace has given us quite the scare this last week and today I am blessed to have a beautiful, strong sister in law with a healthy bun still in the oven.  I can't wait to see who baby will grow to be, I just know he will be that kid whose ALWAYS ready to go and rush everybody out the door early! ;)  In the meantime, I'm going to continue enjoying the perks of Gena's pregnancy....like how she's always ready for some good eatin'!  And Gena if you can't go eat Mexican food, I'll be sure to bring Mexican food to you!  In the meantime, I ask each and every one of you to continue praying for Gena and baby Tivy (Tucker-Ivy), for their health and comfort until that joyous September day!

 Next, I count this crazy little boy!  I love my Aiden James!  This here picture is almost a perfect capture of his always zany, fun personality!  We are blessed to have him!  We had a blast at his end of year party as you can tell!  He's proven to be an awesome student on top of it all and tomorrow will be his very last day of Kindergarten!  Even more, I count the fact that he is attending such a great Christian school, where the knowledge of Jesus Christ and teachings of the Bible are at the very core of his curriculum! 

 I count this here relationship you see in the next picture!  My kids absolutely love each other, through thick and thin, good and bad, upside down and inside out!  That's not to say they won't be the first to aggravate the other, but I do promise they're the first to include and think of the others also.  One of the greatest parts of having four children is watching their lives grow together, lean on, and love one another!
 Today I also count my wonderful friends and family!  There's no way I could picture or even name every single of you I'm grateful for.  So, I'll start and stop with you Holly! :)  It's hard being so far from so much of my family in so many ways, especially my Mom and Grandma.  I couldn't survive the day to day life of a Country Mama without my reinforcements like her!  Holly you play so many roles in our family and I thank you for being here for me and especially these kids.  We may not always know what we're doing or how to do it, but we sure are having fun figuring it out!  When we face weeks and times in our lives like this past week, you're a constant to us and a comfort to my babies, and I thank you! 
 And yes, I think this zany little personality here can be counted more than once!
 And of course I count this little man and his smile!  I count it a blessing that one of my dilemas these last few days has been hoping my stitches don't come out because I can't quit laughing at these little people!  May I never take for granted even one single moment of enjoying who they are and how perfectly complete our family is because of each and every one of them!
 And that I got to go to Aiden's first TBall game of the year!  It's so neat to see how far he's come and grown in just this last year!  His confidence is bigger his attention is longer and of course, he's having a blast!
 And to see my kids get to know their Aunt Vanessa!  I have the most beautiful, fun, greatest little sister a girl could ask for....which also makes for a very awesome Auntie for my kids!
 Yep....this here's that confidence I just mentioned!  Look at that stance!
 And up to bat!
 Look at this boy run!
 Good game #39, same number as your Uncle Keith use to be!
 Today I count this beautiful gal right here as another reason I'm blessed.  As imperfect as I am, I hope to provide somewhat of a way for her to follow in becoming a Mom!  She sure has had the best examples so far in Mom and Grandma!  At the least, she'll have at least a comical outlook from having to be in my shoes a bit with these kids!  In the meantime, I want her to see just how wonderful, beautiful, strong, and unique she is and how priceless she is to all of us because of it!  Oh yeah, and baby kitty Camry!  When Reese started staying away several weeks ago, we suspected this may be the cause.  And sure enough, today we can count a new kitten as well!
 Speaking of newness around here....meet 3 of our little pups!  Eyes are open and we have little ones sneaking off from their house here and their!  The two on the right are Gracie and my favorites!  Such pretty pups to add into the count today!  And don't forget their 4 brothers and sisters that aren't counted!
And of course....Little Lexi!  Formerly known as Spanky but renamed by Gracie, I count her injured foot in our blessings today as well.  There was a reason she was my front seat passenger at and during the end of the year party, and may I say she was very well mannered!  This poor Mama dog hurt this foot pretty bad and Gracie and I did ALOT of doctoring on her, including physical therapy on this foot throughout this day pictured!  And sure enough, her foot has been saved and seems to be functioning well.  Let me not forget to count the sweetest part of it all....in the car, on the way to the vet this day, Gracie was so worried and scared about her dog!  The next thing I know, in her sweet, nurturing voice I heard my baby girl say, "Mommy, I sink we should pray".  And we did.  I count above all, the fact that our sweet baby girl knew exactly where to turn with her worries and fear!
I count this garden.  Row by row.  Seed by seed.  What a blessing indeed!
 I count these here 'maters!  See the reddest one on the top left?  That was my first ripe tomato ever and yes, it ended up in my mouth and was wonderful!
I count each and every part of this garden that is ready to harvest, or getting ready to harvest.  I may not be able to tend to it now, but I know there's a good place for all of it amongst us!  And I also know, and count the fact that I WILL be well and able to harvest much more to come this year! 
 I count everything about this garden, our home, and our family as a blessing more than any I deserve!  And I count the fact that when I worry and fret, when I lose focus of what's been given to me and only seem to remember what seems wrong....that the good Lord slows me down and reminds me just how much I have to be grateful for!
 I count the fact that these kids love this garden, the values, and the skills that we're trying to teach and pass to them.  And yes, to learn on my own before doing so on some of them! 

I count the fact that both snakes Tommy killed in the last week (a rattler and water moccasin) were not near or around my children.  And Grandma, before you fall over, there's a good thing here......they were both found only when the kids weren't around!  There's safety in numbers and in teaching the kids to stay away from dangerous areas!
I count this specific moment that had me laughing so hard I could barely breathe...one of them that had my holding my belly so tight just praying it wouldn't be possible to laugh my stitches out!  And my dear little Cass....this here is also for future bribery purposes although I know I'll never need to result to such measures with my sweet baby boy!  But just in case, let me explain the 'Captain Underpants' getup here!  You have discovered and decided that it's not only cool, but very fun, to pee like a big boy.  However unfortunate for our sakes, that means we have to lock you in your clothing for now!  Sorry baby, it's only for a short time and we love you!!!!

And I will also count that the Pathology report from my surgery was CANCER FREE.  Right now my pain and inability to do much is not because of sickness, but because of healing.  Healing I'm thankful for.  So, I guess that means that I need to count my pain and inconveniences as blessings right now too.  So I will.

And of course my husband Tommy!  Whose not present in today's photos only because he's hard at work behind the scenes running much of the show, catering to animals, building for me, tending the garden, protecting our family from snakes and such, and of course....being the wonderful Daddy and husband that he is.

For tonight, I will stop there.  Not because the count ends, but because I think I'll save some for another day!  You see, I had started to feel a little sorry for myself because I can't get up and do what I would like right now.  I even had a little melt down...or two to be truthful.  And then I remembered.....

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power or Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

How blessed we are.  How unworthy am I, to ever count anything but how much we've been given.  Lord tonight I pray for protection, provision, and hope to all who have lost or are searching for loved ones due to the recent storms.  Please help me to walk a little more grateful tomorrow and to be a good steward of all you have entrusted to us.