Friday, July 26, 2013

Never say Never

Once upon a time a newly married couple were in college together. Both were pursuing teaching, one in music, one in social studies. They dreamed of the days when they would be teaching together. They'd have their own little family. They'd teach in the same school district their kids attended. They would be on the same schedule with  the same days off. And summer. Oh they had big plans for summer. The plans involved an RV and the time to see all the beautiful places in this country.

Time at college was complete, and the couple found that public school teaching was not all they dreamed. The man looked at other careers. The woman continued to teach for a time, but found it hard to leave the new baby with babysitters, and with the birth of their second child, the woman also left the teaching profession.

When their oldest child was school age, the choice of public schooling was not appealing in their location. The choice of private schooling was not even considered because of cost. So, it was decided homeschooling was the way to go for the time being.

The couple and their growing family, third baby had arrived and fourth on the way, had the opportunity to move out of state with family. The new home was out in the country with plenty of space for gardens, animals, and kids to run. The man found a job that seemed a perfect fit for him, and the couple moved. A few months later the new baby had arrived.

By this time homeschooling was very much a part of this family's life. They loved it, and the kids learned from books and learned from life, hard work, and all that comes with raising animals and gardens for your family. The man worked long hours, yet finances were still a struggle, and the family looked for ways to make all the things that were important to them fit with the mundane things of this life.

The woman worked a part time job for a number of years. That was a help, but she worked when the man was home and family time suffered. The little farm grew and began to sell at farmers markets. The family hoped to create income flow there, but kept tripping over the same hurdle. The farm need to grow a little more. It needed more muscle, and more time. The man, working 50-60 hours a week, just wasn't around enough. The family missed him, and the farm suffered.

Then a friend recommended the man for a teaching position at a private school. The couple thought, "This could be the answer to our time problem." At the same time, knowing private school pay scales, wondered how they could make that work financially. The private school asked the man, "Your wife doesn't teach does she? We are looking for a second grade teacher."

The couple were taken a back by the opportunity in front of them. This is not exactly what they had in mind. This was not their plan, yet, in so many ways it seemed so right. It took them back to the dreams of their early marriage. The family, together, on the same schedule and the same calendar. Instead of summers travelling, summers would be spent together working on the farm. The financial piece was there. The time piece was there. The family piece was there. It seemed a perfect fit.

The family is embarking on a new journey, and a huge change. Some of the younger members have a little less peace about the change than the man and the woman. The realm of school is unknown to them. The man and woman are confident the children will thrive once the ball gets rolling.

This life is full of surprises. Dreams that were once put on a shelf to gather dust sometimes find their way back to the realm of possibilities. They don't always look exactly how you expected, they rarely happen on the schedule you plan, but they do happen often when you least expect it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Never Ending Learning Curve

I love gardening. I love getting out there and working in the dirt, and I particularly love the pay off in fresh produce the garden provides. Gardening is therapeutic. It is also challenging, like a puzzle that changes a little every year. Just when I think I have a particular aspect manstered, the weather, the pests, or something else throw me a curve ball, and I get to learn something new.

Last year we tried Florida Weave to trellis our tomatoes for the first time. It worked wonderfully, and I thought I finally had the "trellis tomatoes" part of the puzzle figured out. This year we set it up, and I have dutifully been adding string as the tomatoes grew. It was all going so well.

Then this morning I found this:

It might be a little hard to see from the photo, but two of my once beautifully trellised tomato plants just escaped and plopped themselves right down on the ground. Upon closer inspection, I found the problem. The bottom rows of trellis string had broken.

Last year we used whatever we could find for string. Most of it was baler twine, and I used all we had last year. We aren't baling hay this year, so I didn't want to buy so much. I bought a smaller roll of thinner twine. Both were natural materials, but last year's was heavy. I'm sure a contributing factor this year was all the rain. The string stayed wet, and just rotted away.

So this morning I spent a couple hours going through tomato rows. This was the only spot where I found plants actually lying on the ground, but there were many spots where a line of string was broken. I did my best to give them a little more support with some fresh string. Next year, back to the heavy twine.

And while inspecting and re-trellising, I found something new in the tomatoes, Margined Blister Beetles.

I've never seen those before. I had to and google it. The bad news is they will eat the tomatoes, and their blood will make your skin blister. The good news is they only stick around for a couple weeks, and can be killed dropping in soapy water. They can join the Japanese, and bean beetles that I've been dealing with in the same way.

So garden, you are throwing me new challenges this year. I'm up to it! I will figure out your ever changing puzzle. Now, I expect my reward! Produce all ready. My pressure canner is getting lonely!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Three Weeks with the Cousins

My niece Ashley, and nephew Miles moved to Florida a couple of years ago. They came up for a three week visit this summer. It was so great to see them, and the time went super fast. We kept busy with farm tasks (as always.) They worked for mom some around her house, picked berries, helped feed animals, and Miles helped process chickens. Ashley, conveniently, slept in that morning.

We did some fun things too. We went to laser tag. Tim created a firing range, and friends came over for an afternoon of shoot followed by a campfire.

They spent a weekend in Ohio with their mom. Mamaw took them to the New River with their dad, and to the Exhibition Coal Mine.

Eric, Betty, Miles, Ashley

It was great to hang out with them again. I know my kids missed them a lot. They've grown up so much. I hope it doesn't take two years for the next visit. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Bright Side

All to often things just don't go as planned. We have good intentions, and often good plans, but snags trip us up. They are frustrating. They make us angry. Yesterday, we encountered such a snag.

Kellen was excited and ready to attend his second year of CTY Camp. His plane was scheduled to leave at 6:30. He and Tim were up at 4:00. I got a call at 6:30 from Tim. The airline would not let Kellen board. US Airways does not let minors fly alone until they are 15. (He will be 15 in one week!) The airline blamed the travel agency (and said this happens regularly.) The travel agency, Travelocity, blamed me saying I checked the wrong box.  I'll take part of the blame (though I'm not entirely convinced and there is no way to know,) but his birthday is listed on the ticket for goodness sakes! And seven days later this whole issue would have been a non issue! 

There is plenty to be angry and frustrated about here. And believe me, thinking through some of it makes my blood boil now. The end result of the morning was that Kellen did not get on that, or any other plane. My mom took the three younger kids to church and then dropped them off with our friends, the Richardsons. Tim, Kellen, and I were on the road by 8:30 for the six hour drive to Dickinson College. It wasn't it in our schedule. It wasn't in our budget, but it needed to be done. Now, I'm trying to look at the bright side.

  • Time with Kellen. He is rapidly approaching adulthood. He is busy with his own friends and activities. One on one time with him is rare. We got 6 hours of it. It was good.
  • We got to see where he will be spending three weeks. He flew in last year, and we never saw the campus, the staff, the dorms, or his friends. We went to the parent orientation. It was nice to see him off on location. And as friends have mentioned, at least camp was close, and his flight was scheduled early enough we could get him there on time.
  • We met his teacher. He looks like he is 12. Tim tells me I'm getting old. Kellen will be taking electrical engineering this year. His teacher actually is old enough to have just received his masters, and has been teaching some undergraduate courses. He is personable, and excited about the subject. They have lots of hands on activities. Building electrical things. Tearing apart electrical things. Soldering electrical things. No, I really didn't understand all of what the teacher was saying, but hey Kellen will, and he will love it.
  • Time alone with Tim. Another rare thing. We got six hours of it on the ride home. And we stopped for ice cream, and ate entire container of hummus by ourselves. Not, your typical date night, but it was nice. 
It really wasn't a bad trip. Calling it enjoyable might be pushing it a little bit, but it was fine, and the mission was accomplished. 

And Tim called the airline today. Kellen will be flying home as scheduled. That is good news! 

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Taking a moment to say a big thank you to those supported Kellen on his missions trip to the Dominican Republic. While there the team hosted a three day VBS, visited orphanages and played with the children. They visited Lilly House, a ministry to former prostitutes. They painted a church,  purchased and delivered food for a village, and provided funds for the purchase and installation of new fencing.

Kellen had a great time, and reported back about being impacted from the simple things that gave the children pleasure like homemade pinwheels and balls. He commented about the prevelance of rice in their diet. Rice was part of almost every meal. Homes, business, and other buildings were always fenced with chain link and razor wire. Below is a link to a video another team member made about the trip, and a link to a slide show Kellen made about the trip.

Dominican Trip

Thanks again for your support! 


Saturday, July 06, 2013

Hobo Dinners

One of our favorite meals is hobo dinners. They are nothing fancy, but there is just something fun about eating your meal out of a tin foil packet that has cooked on the campfire. We've even done them in the oven before, or on the grill.

They are simple and flexible. Start with a good sized rectangle of foil. Add meat. We often use stew meat or ground beef. Other meat will work too. Add chopped vegetables. The standard is potatoes, carrots, and onions, but green pepper, tomato, corn on the cob (cut in half,) cabbage, and other things work too. Use what is in season. Season with salt and pepper, fresh herbs, garlic, or other family favorite seasonings.

Tent the foil and roll down from the top and sides to create a packet.

Cook times will vary depending on your method, but generally about 40 minutes. Open one the packets to check if the veggies are done. When they are, it is time for dinner. Unwrap and enjoy.