Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Great Field Trip

We are leaving tomorrow on the great field trip. This is our fifth year of homeschooling. Ever since the beginning we were excited about the idea of being able to learn hands-on. We hoped to be able to learn through field trips that would give us greater understanding of the world we live in, and the history of the people. When we went to Hawaii with my parents a couple of years ago, we made it an opportunity to learn about the place and the people. We learned about the island environment. Hawaii doesn't have snakes or mosquitoes.

One of the places we have badly wanted to visit is Williamsburg, Va. Our girls love history, and love learning about the way people used to live. We are planning on heading to Williamsburg for the Spring Homeschool Experience. If you aren't familiar with the Homeschool Experience, you really should check it out. Williamsburg has two a in the fall, one in the spring. I assume they are held during their slowest weeks of the year. But the prices are amazing. Several places offer lodging at a fraction of their normal price, and the pass to all the historical buildings and activities in Colonial Williamsburg is incredibly reduced. I believe the normal price this time of year is somewhere around $26 for a one day pass, and a five day pass is being offered for $11. Now that is what I call a savings! They also offer additional programs for homeschoolers during this special week.

We are also starting a new blog and hope to have it up at our return. Myself, and the girls will be posting on this new blog. They are itching at the opportunity to blog themselves and it is my desire to use it as a tool for school. They are wanting to write about their interests and experiences. You may even get to witness their growth as amateur photographers and see what little creative projects they are working on. They will begin by telling you about some of the things they learned during their wonderful Williamsburg experience. Please encourage them and help me guide them so they can learn and grow through their writing.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

That Time of Year

It's that time of year again! The time is right for sitting around the wood stove and gazing longingly through seed catalogs. I like to sit and daydream about my summer garden, perfect and pest-free, blessing me with a bounty of blemish-free, organic produce.
This year is different. We are in a house. We have stability. We have running water! We have a kitchen and a refrigerator. We have a freezer and a pantry. We have a stove top big enough for setting a canner on top. We have a deep crawl space under the house. We have an opportunity to start really progressing on our Independence from supermarkets.
I am branching out this year in my search for seeds. I made some new friends who turned me on to seed saving. I was given the gift of some seeds last fall as well. It is my desire to plant old heirloom varieties of produce. I am focusing on varieties that are either unusual, grown specifically for this climate, or are known for their great storage or preserving abilities. I'm looking for seeds with history.
That is why I am totally enchanted with my newest catalog ~ Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They are located in Virginia and they carry many varieties that are suited to the climate where I live. They carry many obscure and unknown varieties such as Black Seeded Kentucky Wonder Green Podded Pole Beans. This one is an Ohio heirloom. "Original seed from Tom Knoche's Aunt Marge, who kept this variety alive for 60 years". I love that they give the history and origin of the seeds they sell. They also describe the best soil and climate, the disease resistance, best uses for the produce, and even some challenges. I LOVE it. I can't stop reading it. I feel like I am reading about farm families of the past when browse through this catalog. SESE is where I will be buying a majority of my seeds this year. I'll have to let you know how they turn out.
We are trying a new project with our garden this year. Last year was both a challenge and a learning experience. We purchased this last that had basically been abandoned for the last few decades. As a result, even though we are near town, it is basically a wilderness. We are teeming with deer, raccoons, opossums, and birds of every kind. They all ate well last year. We lost all our sweet corn and popcorn, and much of our tomatoes and melons to fat, happy critters. They helped themselves to the fruits of our labors. Unfortunately, we didn't have alot of options. We were living in the camper. We had to haul water in buckets and were travelling across town to shower and do laundry. We didn't have much time to dedicate to garden security.
This year we are landscaping around our house with our garden. We have brought the dogs inside the house and they have access to a large, enclosed yard through a doggy door. We are going to put some raised beds in that area. Take that, critters! Our veggies will now have watchdogs! The rest of our fruits and vegetables will be placed in small beds scattered around the perimeter of the house. They will be closer to water. We have a sunny side and a shady side. They will be closer to watch and closer to care for. Instead of rows, we will have areas. Instead of hills or trellises we are going to make tepees out of cedar from this land. We'll just have to see how it goes. My hope is that is will not only be functional, but beautiful as well.
Well, back I go to daydreaming.......
A garden is evidence of faith. It links us with all the misty figures of the past who also planted and were nourished by the fruits of their planting. ~ Gladys Taber

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A 21st Century Victory Garden

During World War I and World War II citizens were encouraged to plant gardens to support the war effort. By planting their own fruits and vegetables, they were told, they would lessen the strain on the public food sources and lower the cost of food for the troops, freeing the military to spend money on other supplies. Gardens popped up everywhere. Neighborhood yards, empty lots, and even public parks became transformed into sprawling landscapes of fresh fruit and vegetables. It became one's patriotic duty to grow their own fresh produce.

Then, with the end of World War II, the efforts of citizens were directed elsewhere. Husbands and fathers returned from the war, and families were reunited. Men returned to the workforce, and women returned to their homes. The victory garden posters were discarded and the radio announcements ceased, and the once vibrant gardens stood empty and overgrown....or were replaced by flowers and grass.

We are in the midst of a new crisis. Unemployment rates are soaring as industry leaves this country. Foreclosures are on the rise. Yet I can drive around my hometown on any night of the week, and restaurant parking lots are filled to capacity. Convenience foods leap off the shelves of our supermarkets. Many of us spend more money on food than we spend on our housing. What if we were to think back to those victory garden slogans? What if we were to spend a little sweat and energy so that our money could go toward other purchases?

Restaurants add more fat to food than we would normally add at home. That is why we can't always reproduce the same tenderness and flavor at home. Order a grilled chicken and even have them eliminate the fattening sauce....chances are they still brushed it with butter or oil. Their goal is to make money. They do this by keeping the customer satisfied. Taste, not healthiness is the key to keeping the customer satisfied.

Food in the grocery store comes from all over the world. Produce is no different. In order to serve fruits and vegetables that are out of season here, they must be shipped from somewhere they are in season. They must be picked before they are ripe, be preserved in some way (often through waxes or other preservatives), and travel by boat, plane, or truck, adding fuel consumption into their cost. The goal is to ripen them somewhat but not too much, and to preserve them as long as possible so they can be purchased, and maybe even consumed, before they rot. It should also be noted that the grower's goal is to produce as great a profit as possible on as little land as possible with as little labor as possible. This means that chemical fertilizers and pesticides have been applied to the produce as well. And that produce is expensive!! We are paying a premium for unripened, aging produce containing pesticides, preservatives, and fertilizers. It really is crazy when you think about it.

Prepackaged food is full of additives and preservatives as well. Have you checked the labels of the foods in your pantry? How about those frozen dinners? Check it all. I really don't have many commercially canned items in my pantry, but I have some. The label on the chicken noodle soup is fourteen lines long as contains such things as high fructose corn syrup, disodium inosinate, and l-cycteine hydrochloride. The cream of chicken soup looks no better. Check your labels. What really concerns me is when they just put 'artificial flavors'. What does that mean? Of what, exactly, is artificial chicken flavor composed? My canned kidney beans contain high fructose corn syrup and my canned mushrooms contain MSG. Almost everything, unless you purchase the NO SALT ADDED version as I do, contains sodium. There are other 'not so goodies' in there as well. Check those labels!

Fresh, home grown fruit and vegetables are fresher and healthier. You have control of what you apply to your plants and produce. You can grow them organically for little or no additional cost. You can pick them when they are perfectly ripe and at their peak in flavor. The flavor of fresh produce barely resembles the flavor of produce purchased in the grocery store. You know that watery, grainy cantaloupe you purchase in the grocery store? We grew some cantaloupe last year that tasted like it had been drenched in honey water. It was amazing! People are already reminding us how much they love us so they can obtain some more this year. And with a little more additional labor, you can freeze and can some of the fruits of your labor. You can choose what to add. You can preserve your fresh, flavorful harvest without the use of additives or preservatives. You can control the amount of sugar or salt you add. You are free to eliminate it altogether. And you can enjoy healthy, flavorful produce throughout the off-season.

Gardening is economical. Seeds are cheap. You can buy most packets of seed, more than you could possibly need, for somewhere between $1.00 and $3.00. Each plant that grows from each seed has the potential to produce a bounty of produce. You can grow dozens of flavorful cantaloupe for less money that it takes to purchase one watery, grainy cantaloupe at the supermarket. Many varieties of seeds, especially those from open pollinated, heirloom varieties, can be saved and used next year, eliminating the need to purchase seeds again. Many hybrid varieties, however, are sterile and need to be purchased yearly. If you do get into saving your seeds, you have the added benefit of being able to trade seeds with other seed savers. It doesn't get any cheaper than that!

There is an additional bonus to growing your own garden. Tending to your garden gives you the opportunity to spend time in the great outdoors, breathing fresh air, and getting beneficial exercise without the cost of a health club membership. It is theraputic, and many people find the garden a great place for prayer. Not only is the food healthier for you, but the act of growing the food is healthy for you. What more could a person ask for?

I believe it is time we resurrect the victory garden. Victory over our finances....victory over flavor....and victory over our health. I hope you agree. Happy gardening!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Quilt In Progress

Well, I decided I had way too much free time on my hands. In other words I have nearly thirty minutes to an hour each day that I am not running around like a madwoman, pulling my hair out. That is just not acceptable. I needed to do something about that disgraceful waste of God-given time.

Anyhoo, I absolutely love learning new skills. I have never been one to allow fear of failure ( or fear of making a fool of myself) get in the way of discovering a new love.

So I decided to make a quilt. Not just any quilt, but a queen sized quilt to grace our bed. So much for just getting my feet wet. Just to make sure I would make such a quilt and not put it off for another year...or ten, I didn't buy a bedspread. ...even though I saw a perfectly good one...or two on clearance...

I can sew. I don't much, but I can. I have skills, as they say. I once sewed a quilt. Well, sort of. It was a small wall hanging made from a kit, and it was nearly twenty years ago, but I figure it's kind of like riding a bike....a bike that I have only ridden with training wheels, or maybe a tricycle, but suddenly decided to enter in an endurance ride. But I always enjoy a challenge.

Really, it is going better than planned. It took me days to cut the pieces. I was originally going to construct it of all 3" squares. That was until I did the math and discovered that I was going to need 1080 such squares. I just don't believe I have that long of an attention span for that kind of project.

But the actual piecing is going much quicker.
Today during my 'free' hour I sewed my first ten squares. So they aren't perfect. They are SO much better than I expected. Anyways, who wants perfect? I think I may even get it completed before the weather gets too hot to sleep under a quilt.

I am using the little Kenmore Mini Ultra that Alea got for her seventh birthday. I don't know what happened to my old 1960's sewing machine. Maybe it is still in the storage trailer. It hasn't really seen alot of use here lately. But hey, the Mini works great!

Well, wish me luck. I may be busy for the next couple of weeks.
But, hey, I am really enjoying this. I think I love quilting!

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Community Update

So much has been happening around Koinonia Community that I am afraid I haven't taken a moment to write. I hope that is beginning to change. I miss this and I miss you, and I hope to be returning more frequently.

We are fairly settled into our home and have been working around the farm most free moments. There are always fences to put up, there is maintenance to do, and buildings to work on constructing. There are animals that need tending to (and babying). Add to that the fact that it has consistently remained muddy and water has remained frozen a good portion of the time. At least now we don't have to haul those buckets quite so far.

Just like everything God does, none of this has been progressing in a way that resembles our original plans. Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. We have allowed ourselves to become discouraged at times, but after a time we have seen how much better God's way of doing things has been. We were just so excited and ready to be a part of building a community. But in our haste and excitement, we tried moving things along in the way they should go.

But God doesn't always work that way. A community of believers that is focused on serving God and each other can't be must be grown. It must occur organically, like the growth of a fruit tree that bears good, strong fruit. Strong roots must develop before the tree can support itself. Time must pass as the roots reach deeper into the soil, and the branches develop upward, soaking in the nourishment from the sun and rain. The exciting thing is that we can now see development. God is sending the sun and the rain. And we can see our branches developing. And we are patiently waiting for our tree to get strong enough to bear fruit.

So, a few changes that have occurred? Nick, our courageous first settler, is becoming adjusted, doing his sleeping in his camper, but much of his living in the house. We have been meeting weekly here at the community house for church, and the number of people that have been joining us has been growing. This house has truly become a house of prayer. It is a beautiful thing to see people joining in true communion, fellowship, and prayer, every week.

Are you wondering what happened to that lovely camper that we lived in for ten glorious months? Were you thinking we would want to keep it to go camping on weekends? We needed to sell it as we desperately needed the money. Then a friend offered us a trade of our camper for a small log cabin. We prayed over it for a LONG time. A cabin would provide another home for someone who may desire to move out here to Koinonia Community. But we couldn't ignore the fact that we needed the cash. So we prayed some more. In the end we decided to trade for the cabin. After all, he was going to give it to someone who needed a place to stay. It just seemed like God had a hand in it all. So we gave him the camper. Mysteriously, after we made that decision, the company my husband's farm contracts with decided to start getting caught up on the money they owed him. I just don't believe in coincidences, do you?

Well, I will stay on top of updates and drop in for a few short notes and quotes as well, just like old times. We hope you are enjoying many blessings.