Thursday, May 30, 2013

Summertime Cooking

I love cooking with propane.  I really do.  But the one problem with using propane is the way it heats up the whole house, especially in the summertime.  The summer is when I am doing the vast majority of my canning.  Part of why I can is to live a little more frugally, but if I have to run the air-conditioner non-stop, I am not achieving that goal. 
Or I could do the canning in the middle of the night (I have done that!).  In theory the house has time to cool off again for a couple of hours before we get up and going.  However canning in the middle of the night makes me a little (!) tired and tired makes me a little (!!) cranky.  Fortunately for everyone, Mr. Marvelous found a solution.

Come, walk into my summertime kitchen!

This is my "counter" for drying herbs and (this year) peppers.  I love my dehydrator; found it for dirt-cheap at Aldi's a few years ago.  Works a LOT better than the home-made we tried.

My outdoor oven.  It has to share the counter with the dehydrator.  Since I was drying parsley the day I took these it got to take a break.  It deserves it; it's a pretty hard worker!

The canning section.  Nothing like a room with a view, right?!

Close-up of my "stove".  After doing a good bit of research we were pleasantly surprised to find that the BTU output of this stove is a little higher than that of our indoor stove.  One canister of gas gets me through about a heap of canning.  Last year it got me through all my tomatoes plus a good bit of jam.

Supplies are portable.  This was from apple-jelly day.

The computer is so I can look up recipes and listen to my hymns station on Pandora.  Unless it is between the hours of 1 and 4 when I will be listening to Dave Ramsey.  And one of my semi-faithful companions is hiding in the chair.  "Please don't take my picture!".

Meanwhile, back in the house, the temperature after an afternoon of canning (the clock was off by a few hours).  Nice!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Strawberry Time Again!

The strawberries are finally ready!  It has been a cool, wet Spring, so they were a little later than usual this year, but they are finally here.  It's a good thing, too, because we ran out of jam in late February.

We made our annual trek to the Jerry Marsh Farms in Locust Fork last Wednesday.  Five one-gallon buckets worth later, we were back home and the berries were in the refrigerator (I can't take credit for picking; for an extra $2, we get them already picked).  Thursday a friend came over and we got 3 buckets washed and crushed, and did two runs of my recipe.  She is such a good friend and a huge help, so I sent her home with a jar or two....or five.  By Friday evening I had finished with all the strawberries, the kitchen was cleaned, and there were 1 1/2 jars in the refrigerator and several more on the canning shelves in the basement.

Just to note, I don't do freezer jam anymore.  My freezer is 26 years old and I am just not sure how much longer it is going to last.  Because of where we live, if the power goes out it can take several days for it to be restored.  Cooked jam tastes a lot better (in my opinion) than freezer jam.

This winter I discovered a blog by a young lady and she talked about her canning journals.  I'm a late adapter but it made so much sense.  Each year you would record the yield from the garden and how many jars of everything you are able to can.  Then in January if you were to run out of jam, you would know that you need to increase how much you would can the next year.  In May if you were to find that you still had 24 jars of pickled eggs (shudder), you would know that you maybe don't need to make quite so much in the coming year.  The important part is to take stock in December and January, so that you are able to sit down with the family gardener and figure out how much more or less of each thing you need to plant in the coming year and plan the garden accordingly.  Isn't that brilliant?!  Her explanation is much better than mine so be sure you click over and read. 

Therefore, in my home and garden binder, right in there with my menu section, my cleaning schedule section, the chicken section, the bunny section, the bee section, the garden will now find my canning journal section!  Yes, thank you, I AM the family nerd. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Glimpses of Glory: Who Is In Control?

From The Bible In Pictures For Little Eyes

I started this post a couple of years ago and for one reason or another have just never posted it.  In the past couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to have conversation with several people about this topic.  I have a fairly serious chronic illness.  Sometimes I am well, other times I am sick and not able to get around.  The point that I try to make is this: while God did not Himself create illness, He is able to use it for His glory and my benefit.  This is where I lose most folks; the physical struggles that I deal with are His best for me.  While there are days when this is beyond difficult to just plain hard, the things that God has accomplished in me as a result of my trials and struggles are things that I would not give up or trade for anything. 

Mr. Marvelous and I have been reading some of Randy Alcorn's books lately; I've been plowing through his book on heaven, and Mark is reading his book on finances (and reading some of it aloud to me while I stitch). I have also been reading his novel, Dominion. The following is a quote from the novel and it is a belief to which I whole-heartedly ascribe! The scene is a sermon being preached by a Baptist pastor in a low-income part of town one Sunday morning. I am not including the congregational responses.

I say when we tell God He has to take away this illness or handicap or financial hardship, we may be telling Him to remove the very things He put into our lives to conform us to the image of Christ! I think (we're) trying to make God into a no-lose lottery in the sky. Like He's just a cosmic slot machine where you put in a coin and pull the lever, then stick out your hat and catch the winnings. It's like God's reason for existing is to give us what we want. Well, I got news for you, folks. My God ain't Santa Claus. He's the Lord God Almighty ~ and don't you forget for a moment He's on the throne and you're not!
Now there's some people that call God 'Master', but they act like they're the masters. And God's the genie. Instead of rubbing a lamp, they just quote a verse or say 'Praise the Lord' three times, and presto, changeo, alakazam, the smoky God with the funny hat and big biceps does whatever they tell Him to do! Like they're the ones that have dominion, not Him. And that explains why people don't care about good theology; they don't care about God. I mean, who cares what the genie's like? Genies serve one purpose ~ to grant us our wishes, give us what we want. Then we can just say, 'You can go now, God. I'll call you back when I think of something else I want'.
I've thought a lot about this prosperity theology. I've thought about it as I've read my Bible. I thought about it two years ago when I walked through the streets of Cairo's Garbage Village, shaking the grimy hands of the Christians who live there in poverty. I thought about it when I worshiped alongside faithful believers on a rough backless bench on a dirt church floor in Kenya. I thought about it some more when I met a pastor from China who lost everything because he stood up for Jesus. Well, this health and wealth gospel may look like it works sometimes in California, but it doesn't work in China or Haiti or Rwanda, now does it? And hear me now, folks. Any gospel that is more true in California than in China is
not the true Gospel!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Never Forget

Memorial Day.  The significance is different for most of my family and friends.

My Dad, I'm sure, thinks about his father and what he suffered during World War I (yes, that's right; WWI, not WWII).  Grampa Bob served all over everywhere during World War II.  My Uncle Robert served in Europe toward the end of that war, and Mr. Billy Plowden "flew the hump" during that war.  Mr. Norman McFadden and Mr. James E. Player had many stories to tell of their service during that time (and I'm so glad my son was able to hear them tell some of those stories before they died).  Al Akin, my father-in-law, served on ship during the Korean war, then came home and worked hard to protect the men and women in the Air Force through his continued service at Robins Air Force Base.  We never knew much about what he did (and I can not talk about the tiny bit I do know), but his work protected and saved many lives during the first Gulf War.  Mr. Ralph Jackson also served in Korea, the forgotten war.  Kurt Wuestenberg gave his life in Vietnam.  Pat Mellon came home.  Mack Miles and Greg Chiapetti also came home but the memories of that time continue.  My nephew Matt served with the Marine Corps until a medical discharge due to diabetes.  His final months of service consisted of sitting at a desk after 9/11 and calling up his buddies to tell them they were about to be shipped out.  My nephew Jeff Mackinnon has served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  My nephew Wyatt Ottmar has served two combat tours.  Jeff and Wyatt have many friends who have not come home.  Tracy and Misty both served in the Gulf.  Brian and Jim have both served in Iraq.  C., Nathaniel, and Jonathan all have their names on our kitchen prayer-board as they serve right now.  I'll never forget Nathaniel's baptism!  James is currently serving as well.

Gramma Ruth kept things together for her daughters at home while Grampa was traveling all over everywhere.  Granny Reed took care of Uncle Robert through many, many hours of intense prayer time while he was gone.  Mr. James E. didn't even get to tell his family good-bye on Pearl Harbour Day; he had to get in the car and go before they got home from visiting his brother.  Kurt's parents suffered from his death until the day they died and were reunited with him.  My nieces Melanie and Emily keep things going at home while their husbands are gone, and care for them when they come home.  My son has promised C. that in the event of his death, he will pipe his funeral.  Nathaniel's wife and children wait and pray.  Jonathan's mother  prays hard, and when he is home unexpectedly on leave, everything else is set aside to be able to just "sit and look at him". 

In this day and time, there are probably not many (if any) of you who have not had a family member or close friend who have served our country in the military.  Whether the duty was combat duty or desk duty, active, reserve, or waiting at home, this is the work of heroes.  For those of you who have lost dear ones, my tears are with you.  For those of you who have welcomed dear ones home, only to discover that coming home sometimes means bringing home physical, mental and spiritual wounds, my prayers are with you.  For those of you who have, are, or will serve; to you and your families all I can say is "THANK YOU" and reassure you again that my prayers are with you.  Every time I see someone in uniform and thank them for their service, I am thanking you as well.

God's peace to our homes.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Galveston, Oh Galveston...

That is the only Glen Campbell song I ever knew.  Every time I even think of Galveston, the song winds up stuck in my head for days.

When I made my first trip to Texas some 26 years ago, one of my biggest dilemmas was how to get across the Houston Shipping Channel.  Bridge, tunnel or ferry?  What a choice to have to make!  I solved it the only reasonable way possible.  I took the bridge.  I then drove back through the tunnel and caught the ferry.  Three crossings and I'm finally headed south to Galveston.

The walk has taken me across the Sabine River and through the Mcfaddin National Wildlife Refuge, just south of the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, across the Bolivar Peninsula and over the bay to Galveston.

Mottled Duck Family from Mcfaddin National Wildlife Refuge Website

The Bolivar Lighthouse, in addition to saving lives during the Galveston Hurricane, was the setting for one of my favorite early teen movies, My Sweet Charlie.  Not the typical favorite movie, but my oldest sister and I stayed up late, late one night to watch it and she explained to me what was going on in a way I have never forgotten. 

Photo by Patrick Feller, Flickr

I did take the ferry across to Galveston, but I promise I was walking the entire ride over! ;)

Photo by Patrick Feller, Flickr

Galveston is an intriguing mixture of old and new.  The architecture of the old neighborhoods is beautiful.  The Moody Mansion and Gardens, gets rave reviews

Photo by Texasexplorer98 Flickr
And then there is the Bishop's Palace or the Col. Walter Gresham Home.  What an amazing place!

Photo WikiMedia Commons

From there I'm headed inland.  Time for another jaunt to the Space Center!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Program....

The Bees Are HERE!
We got a call Thursday night from our friend-neighbor-fellow beekeeper who has been preparing a nuc for us.  Our first of two hives is ready to be moved.  I guess this is really going to happen.  This is that moment of "What-have-I-gotten-myself-into-because-I-don't-know-ANYTHING-about-beekeeping"  And here we are.
Yesterday Mr. Marvelous tilled up an area and put concrete blocks down and leveled them to be ready for the bees when they get here.

 The arrival. 

The careful placement.  

You may not realize it if you don't keep bees yourself, but there is an "entrance reducer" that is blocking the way out of the hive.  It keeps the bees from flying out on the trip over here.

OK, it keeps MOST of the bees from flying out.

I had to sit and introduce myself to them and explain what was going on.

Later in the evening, after sundown, I went out and moved the entrance reducer just a little bit so that they could get out of the hive if they wanted to.  I wasn't geared up ~ didn't think I needed to be ~ but they started trash-talking me when I started to move the reducer, so I left, went in the house, geared up completely, grabbed the flashlight, and went back out to try again.  They were happy to get some fresh air!  When I left them for the evening, two of them weren't quite finished with our conversation, so they followed me into the garage, still talking.  I don't know if they ever found their way back out of the garage or not.  Now I know to be sure they don't follow me in!

Tomorrow I will remove the reducer completely and then tomorrow afternoon late I will do an inspection if it is not raining.  I also have 2 1/2 more gallons of strawberries to turn into jam.  It's going to be a busy weekend!


I am enchanted by the fairies.  For years I have seen bits and pieces of what people term "Fairy Gardens" and I have always been interested in these.  Sometimes you just have to quit thinking about ideas and actually DO something about them.  This past weekend was the time.

Mother's Day.  A sick husband.  An exhausted son (he works 2 jobs most days).  Both men napping all afternoon.  Mom at loose ends.  I finally jumped into Pinterest and caught the bug.  I found some amazing things people have done with "Fairy Gardens" and "Miniature Gardens".  I was off and running!

A number of years ago, I was given my Granny's old stock pot.  It has been a treasure to me because my Granny was a treasure.  I think I cried the day it sprung a leak.  I have been trying to figure out how to use it ever since.  A miniature garden has always been in my mind for it and I decided it was time to fix it up.

So I took a pot.

Terribly blurry, but do you see the hole?  Sigh!

And I went on a rock hunt.  Mr. Marvelous was thrilled.  Our gardens seem to be overly generous in giving us rocks.  If you need any, please feel free to give me a call.

 Not liking to think about what might be living in this hole, I moved on to the back yard.  I did NOT scream, I don't care what anyone says.

This is the water source for our honey bees when we get them.  Isn't Mr. Marvelous marvelous to think of this?!

Peach pit.  Guess they don't compost very well after all.  I added it.  If a peach tree grows in the stock pot I will know the fairies did it!

Even found some rocks co-existing with the tomato plants.

I took the pot into the shop and drilled 5 more holes in the bottom.  I drilled the holes.  With Mr. Marvelous' drill.

Then added the rocks. 

 In our basement/shop/gardening area, we keep tubs of potting soil.  After we plant our seedlings, we often recycle the potting soil.  Sometimes that gives us a surprise later in the season!

I removed the whatever-it-was and added the potting soil on top of the rocks.

Guess I should have put my gloves back on first.

This is the hill on the east side of the house.  It is shaded, so it grows a lot of moss.  It's also the less steep side, so it is the route Mr. Marvelous takes to get the tiller from back to front. 

Wasn't it sweet of him to plow a furrow through the moss for me??

I love mossy areas!

Moss added to pot....
...and now the fun of adding different tchotchkes. 

I have a lot of them for all different seasons.

 I love that the cow farm wife has glasses and a hat!

I've had this girl since I was about 8.  She has to have a bunny, of course.
 And here they all are

 I'll be doing more with this.  Maybe a few tiny little flowering plants.  Maybe a little house.  I don't know that all the figures are going to stay.  I don't know if I am going to change things out periodically or just make more gardens when I want something different.  I have started another little one around one of the cedar trees.  It's just a fun way to get outside and get my hands in the dirt without being overwhelmed by a large area where the weeds get away from me.  I think this pot will be pretty easy to keep weeded!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I have been a diabetic for over 30 years.  So my feet are, well, "challenged".  I'm going to be kind and NOT show you any pictures!
When I go outside to do anything these days, I put on my big rubber wellies.  

It's a trip to see me, I'm sure.  But the wellies protect me from things like thorns from the wild roses.

And mean roosters and their spurs.

And poo.  There's lots of that around.   
(Every time I go out to see the animals, I feel like saying, "Greetings, Dwellers in the land of poo")

So anytime I go feed the rabbits and chickens, or anytime the chickens are making more noise than usual and I think I need to go check on them and protect them from armadillos or possums, I put on my wellies as I dash out the door.

Yes, those are pink flamingo lights around our front door.  
Doesn't everyone have those??

This morning the chickens started clamoring for my attention.  Being the cooperative farm-wife that I am, I went out to give them some.  I put on my boots.  By the time I hit the sidewalk, I was screeching louder than the chickens!  I didn't know if there was a family of mice or rats in there, but it was SOMETHING that wasn't supposed to be there!  LOTS of something!!  

I limped back to the front door and quickly kicked off the offending boot.  There are those who say I leapt back onto the porch and kicked the boot into next week.  Clearly those who say that are wrong, because the boot was still right there.  

Along with a bunch of little somethings....

....that look like peas!

Mr. Marvelous has been planting the front garden in peas.  Somehow a couple of handfuls found their way into my boots.  OK, maybe just the one on the left. 

Mr. Marvelous swears he is innocent.  I'm 99% sure I believe him.

Mr. Marvelous, Jr. swears he is innocent.  I believe him.  Mamas know these things.


The neighbor's miniature greyhound doesn't like me, but he's not bright enough to figure out how to get peas into a boot.  Trust me.


There was a squirrel yesterday trying to poach some of the seeds that had been planted.  I gave him quite the lecture and scolded him away. 

I guess it's just one of those things. 

But I'm a little more careful when I put my boots on now!!