Sunday, March 4, 2012

We Have Moved

We have moved to a new site.  Please check out our new blog site at

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Freeze Frame

Do you ever find yourself hustling and bustling through life, hurrying to get one thing done so that you can rush on and do the next thing on the list?  This happens to me more often than I'd like.  Between helping Joey on the farm, teaching school, and a million and one other things that folks do, sometimes life seems to be running in fast forward.  

Sometimes, when this happens, I have to hit the pause button! I have to stop and "freeze frame" my life.  When I freeze frame, I pause (just for a minute!), and think to myself, "What is special about this season in my life?  What is happening right now that probably will not happen in any other season?  What will I want to remember about this time when I am very old and look back over my life?".

These questions never fail to stop me in my tracks. They bring my focus away from racing as fast as I can to finish a task, to slowing down and appreciating the finer details of the season that I'm in.  

I've freeze framed some pretty special times in my life.  When my daughter was tiny, I tried to freeze frame the way her little warm body felt as she snuggled up against me during nighttime feedings.  When we have to harvest vegetables for market in the pouring rain, I try and freeze frame how young and strong Joey looks with his hair soaking wet and water running down his face.  I always wonder what he'll look like when we're old and gray.  As I play music on the courthouse square, I freeze frame the sweet sounds of the guitar and fiddle as the music blends together and floats away in the cool night air.  When a big crowd gathers round to listen, I try and freeze frame the smile on my Dad's face and the way his eyes light up at the loud shouts and applause when we play, "Orange Blossom Special".

Just like the natural seasons, our personal seasons in life are all different and full of changes.  Some seasons are slow and easy, some are painful and bittersweet, and other seasons seem to fly by in a blur.  Don't let your seasons slip away without stopping to notice how beautiful and special each one is.  Once a season is gone, you can't get it back.  It's okay to hit the pause button once in awhile.  In fact, you should!  Freeze frame a moment or two this week, and enjoy every day to it's last drop!
   Relax for a moment and think about the good things in life!
This is Elizabeth relaxing in the front yard last spring!     

Saturday, February 25, 2012

School Time!

Homeschooling is one of our most favorite and amazing parts of life here on the farm.  I get lots of questions about when, where, why, and how we home school.  So, in this blog, I thought I'd share with you a little about school on the farm.  

School on the farm is definitely not a one person job.  It involves our whole family.  Joey and I both teach Elizabeth every day; and sometimes, Elizabeth teaches us!  We all are very committed to education and love learning, so it truly is an exciting adventure for us all.

We use a Christian curriculum from a wonderful company called Sonlight (  Our daily subjects cover literacy, math, science, social studies, Bible study, history, and geography.  We have a few supplemental materials like Weekly Reader ( that we do as well.  

Since I teach second grade at a public school during the day, Elizabeth is with Joey on the farm.  Joey teaches Elizabeth her formal science lessons and part of her literacy.  He also reviews any skills that need to be taught again.  Living on a farm has provided Elizabeth with hundreds of informal lessons in everything from growing plants to helping count change at the farmer's market.

After the formal lessons are over, Elizabeth gets to enjoy being in the fresh air and sunshine while working (and playing) with Dad.  

When I get home in the afternoon, Joey heads back outside to do chores or complete tasks that don't require the help of a five year old.  Elizabeth and I head into the schoolroom to start on the rest of her schoolwork. 

The schoolroom didn't start out to be a schoolroom.  It just evolved over time and somehow turned into one!  Elizabeth's grandpa built her a little desk and a chair that is just her size. Her desk faces two big windows that look out over the garden. She loves to sit at it to do her paper work.  We have big comfy pillows on the floor that we like to sit on to do lessons and read.  The walls are filled with Elizabeth's school papers and drawings.  One side of the room has bookshelves that go from floor to ceiling.  The bookshelves are filled with children's books and magazines.  The very bottom shelf holds a large collection of puzzles and games.  Elizabeth's dollhouse sits snugly in one corner of the room.  Technology is also a part of our school.  We use the computer, I-pad, and Internet quite frequently.  

After our evening meal, we take a few minutes to finish up our formal schoolwork.   Learning never really stops at our house.  It seems that there is always something that Elizabeth (or Joey or I) is wondering about!  One of the last things that we do together each day is share bedtime stories with Elizabeth.  This is also part of her school curriculum, but the stories are so enjoyable that we all love hearing them as a bedtime story!

Even though Elizabeth loves being at the farm, she also needs to have socialization with other children.  She attends dance classes, enjoys her Sunday school class at church, and loves having friends over to play.  She also likes going with us to help at the Farmer's Market.  

Homeschooling isn't for everyone, but it was just right for us.  Learning is a journey that never stops.  No matter how old you get, or how much you know, there's still more that you can learn.  It's such an exciting blessing to be able to lead our little one on her first steps down the pathway of knowledge.  We're looking forward to homeschooling for many years to come!

 Our family enjoying The Boxcar Children together in the porch swing
 during Elizabeth's first month of Kindergarten.


Rich as Rockefeller

The plain truth is that I am rich.  When I say rich, I mean rich; not just comfortable or well-off.  Just how much money is in my bank account?  Hmm....let's see....if I had to calculate, I'd say that there's at least twenty dollars in there at almost all times.

I can hear you now!  You're saying, "What?!  Twenty dollars does not qualify you as being rich, well-off, or even very comfortable!".  Well, if you're talking about money, that may be true.  But, as we all know, there's more to being rich than having lots of money!

Our life on the farm is incredibly rich in so many different ways.

One of our greatest treasure troves is the love of our family.  In this day and age, a million different things such as drugs, sour relationships, and long distances threaten to tear families apart.  I am so thankful that our immediate family members live close and love one another.  My daughter Elizabeth's life is so rich because of the time she spends each day with loving grandparents and great grandparents.  Joey and I are also richer because of their daily love, support, and wisdom.  Speaking of Joey, he makes my life richer every day.  The commitment we made to each other in marriage is a treasure worth more than diamonds or gold.

Another area that we are rich in is good health.  This is something that is often taken for granted.  What a blessing it is to be able to have a healthy mind and body!  If you have ever been really sick, or cared for someone who was really sick, you know how true this is.

Good food goes right along with good health.  There is certainly plenty of good food on the farm!  Whether it's freshly picked from the garden or preserved in a mason jar on the pantry shelf, having plenty of delicious and wholesome food to eat is better than a million dollars!  It's absolutely glorious to be able to get a fresh egg from the hen house or to pick and eat a juicy blueberry that is still warm from the sunshine!

When night falls on the farm, we display our riches when our secret cache of diamonds come out!  Secret cache of diamonds?!  That's right.  We have thousands of them.  They're called stars.  The sky above the farm sparkles with beautiful glittering stars.  A dazzling jeweler's necklace couldn't outshine them!  If you haven't stepped outside to look at them for awhile, please do.  They are still there, just as beautiful and marvelous as ever.  As the stars begin to come out, our own personal symphony orchestra begins to play.  The little frogs, bugs, and a soft breeze make a music that is second to none.

There are such great riches to be found in the smallest and most simple things.  It is such a blessing to be rich with all of the treasures that make life truly great. Here are a few examples that I wouldn't trade for a boatload of money:

  • Hearing Elizabeth's laughter as she plays in her grandfather's barn.
  • Snuggling deep into a warm bed as a cold winter wind howls outside.
  • Watching the vibrant, green, plants inside the greenhouse sprout and grow while outside snow covers the ground.
  • Laying on the couch on Sunday afternoon and falling asleep to the ticking of the wind-up clock.
  • Listening to Grandma, Grandpa, and the Aunts and Uncles tell stories about each other!
  • Looking out the kitchen window and seeing Joey plowing the garden with the tractor and Elizabeth playing in the yard.  
  • Sitting in church on Sunday and singing the beautiful old hymns of praise.
  • Having a campfire cookout in the backyard.
  • Dancing with Elizabeth to our favorite records.  
  • Eating a frosty bowl of homemade vanilla ice cream on the front porch on the Fourth of July.  
The list could go on and on!  As I said earlier, there's much more to being rich than having lots of money.  For me, the best kind of riches, are the ones that can be found right here on the farm.

*What about you?  Are you rich?  If so, what do you consider your greatest treasure?  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Green Bean Pickin' Machine!

Green beans may seem like a simple vegetable, but they play a big part in our life here on the farm.  As you will soon find out, there's more to the tiny green bean than meets the eye!  

In the summer, I like to think of myself as a "green bean pickin' machine"!  I like this title so much that I even wrote a song about it!  A row of green beans can seem ten miles long when you're picking them in the blistering, hot, summer sun.  I always start off well enough, but somewhere around the middle of the row, I start walking on my knees.  By the end of the row, I'm usually scooting along on my seat - and that's just row number one.  Usually there are somewhere around eight to ten rows to make it through.  Who needs a fancy gym membership when you can pick green beans?!

Needless to say, the job is long and hot.  Eventually, Joey and I (and whatever unsuspecting family member we can rope into picking) get all the green beans picked.  We love to can fresh green beans for the winter and they are a staple item on our farmer's market table during the summer months.  At the farmer's market, green beans have taught us some valuable lessons in social skills.  

Most folks that frequent our booth at the market have grown and picked green beans before.  Needless to say, they are thrilled to pay $3.00 for a heaping quart box of our fresh green beans.  They're even happier that they are grown without any synthetic chemicals, and are thrilled when Joey puts an extra handful of beans into their sack to "top it off" before he hands it to them!  

But....there are always one or two folks that seem to want to be hard to please.  Those folks don't like the price of the green beans, or the way the green beans look, or the way the quart box is filled, or the color of my apron, or....well, I think you get the idea.  

Instead of being rude, we try to smile politely and explain why things are the way they are at our booth.  Sometimes this helps and sometimes it doesn't.  Either way, it's a lesson in getting along with others.  

Green beans are good to sell at the farmer's market to help earn some money for our farm, and they also help out with the family finances in another way.  

I mentioned earlier that we typically sell a heaping quart box of green beans for $3.00.  I also mentioned that they are one of my least favorite vegetables to pick in the hot summer sun.   So it just seems natural that when I am trying to decide if I should make a purchase or not, I use a complex mathematical formula that I call "Green Bean Conversion".  

To use Green Bean Conversion, I simply translate the purchase price of an item into boxes of green beans.  For example, if I am thinking about making a $30.00 purchase, that would translate to 10 heaping boxes of green beans that would have to be picked.  

More often than not, this formula quickly stops me from wastefully spending money.  I even think that it might be a useful formula that our government would like to consider to help with their spending problems.  If all the congressional folks had to pick enough green beans to cover their expenditures, I think that would really help them to make wise choices about how they spend our countries money.  

You may not have realized that green beans have so many uses!  From social skills to the family finances, green beans can help with almost everything.  You can get in shape while picking them, improve your social skills while selling them, curb your spending habits by doing a mathematical formula with them, and.....the best part....enjoy a delicious meal while eating them!  

Some of our freshly picked green beans!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Different Dining

Tonight, we ate at our favorite dining spot.  Our special table by the window had been reserved just for our family.  Our food was cooked to perfection and seasoned just how we like it.  The atmosphere was relaxed.  No one even blinked an eye when I wore my pajama pants and an old sweatshirt instead of dressing up.  

Where is this fabulous place?'s located very close to where we live.  In fact, it's located right in our house.  It's our dining room.  While our dining room isn't an actual restaurant, it does happen to be our families favorite place to dine.  

One of our simple pleasures in life is cooking and preparing a delicious nightly meal together.  Most of the ingredients we use are grown right here on the farm.  Cooking is a family affair on the farm.  We all have our favorite items to prepare.  Joey's speciality is meat, mine is vegetables, and Elizabeth really loves to make deserts.  

Unfortunately, it seems that in today's world, enjoying a nightly meal around the dining room table is almost a thing from the past.  This is beyond sad and senseless.  If everyone works together, it only takes a little time and effort to prepare a simple, nutritious, and delicious meal.  

There are so many benefits that come along with eating and preparing a meal together.  It is a great time to visit with your family and catch up on what has happened during the day.  It's also an excellent teaching time for children.  They can help measure and mix ingredients while the meal is being prepared.  Table manners and conversational skills can (and should!) also be modeled and practiced during meal time.  Another great benefit of eating at home (besides wearing lounge clothes!) is the cost.  If you prepare your meals from scratch, the cost can be very cheap. 

Now, usually when I start talking about making things from scratch, people turn pale and start to look at me like I have two heads.  Before you do that, take just a moment to keep reading.  Preparing meals from scratch isn't as hard as you think.  In fact, it's not hard at all.  Cooking from scratch usually requires basic ingredients such as flour, sugar, cheese, vegetables, etc.  You don't have to be a master chef to cook from scratch.  You can grab almost any cookbook and find basic recipes for just about everything.  One of my favorite old standbys is The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  It's my go to book for everything from pancakes to pie crust.  

Another thing that you can do to help create delicious, cheap, homemade meals is to can and preserve your own food.  I usually get the "two headed" look from people when I mention this also.  Really, truly, and honestly, it's just not that hard!  You will be absolutely amazed at the difference between food that you have canned or preserved yourself and store bought food.  There is just no comparison.  If you have never tried cooking from scratch, or canning/preserving your own food, you've just got to try it.  It will truly change your life!  

One of the biggest complaints that I hear when I talk to people about eating at home is that they don't have enough time or are to tired to cook.  Something that really helps with both of these problems is preparing meals ahead of time.  If you know that you will be pressed for time or worn out during the week, an easy thing to do is to cook and freeze some meals ahead of time.  Then, all you have to do is heat it up in the oven.  Some of our favorite meals to do this with are chicken pot pie and mini-meat loafs.  It is wonderful to be able to come home at the end of a hectic day and still have a delicious home cooked meal.  Another great time saver that we use is a crock pot.  We love slow cooking pot roast, potatoes, and carrots.  

Now, I know that some of you cook from scratch, can or preserve everything in sight and are reading this and saying, "YES!".  I also know that some of you eat out way more than you'd like to and are reading this and thinking, "I wish my family could eat at home more."  Well, guess what?  You can!  Go find your dining room or kitchen table.  Odds are, it's still right where you left it.  Sure, it may be piled up with papers, sports gear, or backpacks, but it's under there...somewhere.  Clean it up and wipe it off.  It's been waiting for you to come back!

Take the plunge and cook at home with your family this week.  Start tonight!  Your dining room table is calling.  You can have your favorite meal, spend some wonderful time with your family,  save some money, can even wear your pajama pants!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Treasure From The Ashes

It was around 8 years ago, one cold February night, that a young couple stood in their front yard.  Big, white, flakes of snow fell softly around them, and icy grass crunched under their feet.  All around them, sirens wailed, radios squawked, and black smoke blew, as the young couple slowly watched their house, with everything in it, burn to the ground. 

This young couple happened to be Joey and I.  What a night that was!  We lost our house and everything in it, except for a few things that we managed to grab.  At the end of that awful night, all we were left with was a big pile of worthless ashes, but in the days that followed, the people in our town and our family members would give us treasures more precious than gold. 

The giving of treasure started the very night of the fire.  On that particular night, the gravel road was iced over, and the fire trucks could barely make it to our house.  One of the emergency vehicles even slid off in the ditch.  Those firefighters braved the flames in the freezing weather.  They worked through most of the ice cold night fighting the fire.  By the time they were done, their face masks and gear were literally frozen on with sheets of ice.  I remember the fire chief coming in, absolutely exhausted, and telling us how sorry he was that they couldn't save our house.  One of our treasures that night was realizing what amazing, unselfish, and dedicated people that our local volunteer firefighters are. 

While the firefighters were battling the flames,  I did what anyone who was scared and worried would do:  I called Mom and Dad.  Even though the roads were icy and dangerous that night, my parents were determined to get to our house.  They started out right away and, after slipping and sliding on the highway, finally made it over to comfort their only daughter. I was greatly comforted by them, but very concerned that they had taken such a risk to come.  When I told them this, they looked at me like I was crazy and said, "You needed us."  They were right.  Joey's parents happened to live right next door to us, and were also a great comfort.  Having the comfort and support of our parents that night (and always) was a treasure worth more than the greatest riches.

We spent the rest of that black, smoky night with Joey's parents.  The next morning, another treasure was waiting.  It was brought by a close neighbor.  This time, the treasure was the gift of generosity.  Our neighbor knocked on the door early that morning, gave Joey and I big hug, and with tears in his eyes, he handed us the keys to his house. 

Yes, that's right, his house. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed.  He told us that he was heading out of town for his work, and we were welcome to stay in his home for as long as we needed to.  We gratefully accepted.  Not only did this amazing man open his home to us, he also refused to allow us to pay the monthly bills. 

That day, and the days that followed, were absolutely filled with people that deeply touched our lives and hearts in a million different ways.  Many neighbors stopped by to see if they could do anything to help, and to give us a handshake or a hug.  There were so many friends and family members that gave us unspeakable riches in the forms of kindness, unselfishness, generosity, and love. 

Here are just a few examples of the amazing folks that we are blessed to call family and friends.  One man drove his loader over five miles to help us clear away the rubble after the fire.  The local schoolteachers got together and made a "teacher hope chest" filled with things like stickers, books, and lessons for my future classroom since all the things I had collected had burnt.  The morning after the fire, Joey's aunt went to the store and showed up with bags filled with basic items like deodorant, underwear, and fresh clothes.  A few days later, she and another aunt went on a small shopping spree and surprised us with several new outfits each.  A close friend sent us each a brand new Bible.  Countless people sent money, clothing, or household items.  Even folks that we suspected really didn't have much to spare, sent us things.  It tore at our heartstrings to receive lovingly cared for blankets and household items.  Each one of these things found a special place in our new home. 

As I write this story, tears fill my eyes, and my heart once again overflows at the memory of the goodness of friends and family. 

In the year that followed, Joey and I lived at our neighbor's house, with Joey's parents, and at a house my parents had in another town.  Life continued on, but it was much different than before.  Every night after work, and every weekend, Joey and his Dad worked on building our new home.

Joey's Dad is a master carpenter and his work is unbelievable.  He can build and design anything from a dollhouse to a mansion.  He spent hours designing and building our home.  Carpentry is a skill that runs in Joey's family.  His uncles hung and finished the drywall for the entire house.  The wiring for our home was done by an electrician, who happens to be Joey's grandpa.  When the house was completely finished, my Mom made custom curtains for our entire home. Not only did our family members do all this, they did it for free.  Because of our families, our house is more than just a house.  It is a labor of love, built by their own hands.  What a treasure!

Having our house and everything we own turn into a pile of ashes is something that I hope we never have to go through again. Just in case you're wondering, the cause of the fire was never found.  Our best guess is that it was something that went wrong with the wood burning furnace.  Even though we may never know what went wrong with the furnace that caused the fire that night, one thing we do know is this:  we are blessed to live in a place where treasures abound!

Joey working on rebuilding after the fire.  He is laying rebar for the foundation.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Beautiful People

My mom, Susan, is one of the beautiful people.  No, I don't mean those fake, over-tanned, over-dressed, ultra-rich beautiful people.  I mean, one of those real beautiful people:  the people who look lovely outside and have exquisite beauty within. 

If you looked at my mom, you would just want to squeeze her.  In fact, her second grade students often do!  She is the perfect picture of someone's favorite grandma.  Her pretty brown hair is streaked with silver and her brown eyes shine when she laughs.  Mom looks wonderful on the outside, but I think she must be a supermodel on the inside.  Let me tell you a few "beauty tips" I've learned from mom.  These beauty tips are far better than the fanciest skin care regimen you could find. They will never go out of style and will work for any age. 

Tip One: Listen To Others
I love to talk (I know that's a shocker!).  I'm a really good listener for around 5 minutes if you're talking about something interesting.  Not mom.  I've seen her spend over an hour listening to people tell, what I think, are mind-numbing stories.  Mom will nod, ask questions, and even give a hug to the other person if they need it.  She always does her best to truly listen and offer help or a word of encouragement.  Real beauty is taking the time to listen to others instead of always having to be heard.

Tip Two:  Care For Your Family
My mom taught school all the time I was growing up.  Even though she was tired, she came home every night and cooked supper, helped me with my homework, did her own school work, and often found time to play a game or two with me.  Going out to eat was a major treat for our family, not a lifestyle.  As a child, I didn't realize how much stability and contentment this gave my life.  As an adult, I strive to follow her explain with my own family.

Tip Three:  Work Hard
As I mentioned earlier, my mom has always been a school teacher.  She is one of those amazing teachers that change children's lives because she truly cares about them and tries her very best to help each and every one of them learn.  Teaching like this requires a lot of extra work.  I've seen Mom spend weekends, summers, and late nights preparing lessons and activities for her students.  When Mom does get a free minute away from school work, her time is usually spent doing something for her family.

Tip Four:  Give To Others
You should see the things my mom can sew!  I'm not talking about a weekend crafter, I'm talking about someone who could have been a professional seamstress.  With such sewing skills, you would think that Mom would have a huge custom made wardrobe.  She doesn't.  Mom spends almost all of her time making clothes for her family, hats for the homeless, or blankets for newborn babies.  Growing up, mom made almost all of my clothing.  Now, my little girl is enjoying wearing clothes made by her.  What a treat!

Tip Five:  Be Modest
In actions and dress, my Mom is modest.  Even though Mom amazes me, she just waves her hand, and says, "I really don't do anything special.".  Incredibly, she really means this!

So you can see, my mom really is one of the beautiful people.  She's never won an award or received recognition for all she does.  She's never been on a fancy vacation or lived in a mansion.  Mom's never been rich and she's never had a fancy car.   Fake tans, designer clothes, and dyed hair have never been a part of Mom's life.  To me, that only adds to her beauty. 

If you look around in your life, I bet you can find some beautiful people to.  They're the ones that are always on the sidelines, helping the person in the spotlight to shine.  They're the ones that you go to when you need an ear to listen and good solid advice.  They're the ones that make your day a little brighter and bring a smile to your face.  They are the beautiful people - inside and out. 

Take a moment to seriously consider the beautiful people in your life.  If you haven't already, talk to them and tell them how much you appreciate them.  Tell them that you think they are beautiful! 

Mom, teaching school at age 20. 
The writing behind her head is on a blackboard.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Goodbye Aisle Seven!

Aisle seven is the cleaning supply aisle.  It’s the one that is filled from top to bottom with hundreds of bottles, sprays, and creams that promise to make your house sparkle, shine, and smell sensational. 

You can easily spend a small fortune on these products.  However, there is a different one.  It’s an old fashioned modern option called “Make Your Own”!  Step into the farm kitchen with me and see how easy it can be to make your own cleaning supplies!  Here are some of my favorite recipes for cleaning supplies.

Countertop Cleaner
I love hot, soapy, water for cleaning my countertops, but if you prefer a countertop spray, you can mix vinegar and water together in a spray bottle.  I mix one cup of vinegar with four cups of water.  You can make the cleaner stronger simply by adding more vinegar. 

Sink, Tub, and Shower Cleaner
Simply sprinkle baking soda on the sink, tub, or shower and scrub with a wet cloth.  Then, rinse.  For tough spots, I make a paste with baking soda and water.  Let it sit on the spot for a few minutes and scrub as usual.

Hardwood and Tile Floor Cleaner
A mixture of warm water and vinegar is all it takes to keep our floors looking clean and shiny.  You can wipe your floors with a cloth or a mop.  Of course, you have to sweep them first before you mop. This is the same as the countertop cleaner.  The more vinegar you add, the stronger the cleaner.  I usually use one part vinegar to four parts water.

Carpet and Trash Can Deodorizer
Sprinkle a little baking soda on your carpet and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.  Then, vacuum.  This will help neutralize any odors.  You can also sprinkle baking soda in your trash can to get rid of smells.  If you are able to compost food scraps instead of putting them in the trash can, this will really help your trash to not stink. 

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Drop two or three denture tablets in the toilet.  Let them dissolve, and then scrub as usual.  This will help your toilet bowl to be sparkly, shiny, and minty fresh!

Glass and Mirror Cleaner
Make a glass cleaning solution by mixing two tablespoons of cornstarch to one quart of warm water.  Wash your mirror or window with the solution.  Rinse out your cleaning cloth with clean water and wipe the window or mirror with the clean water.  Then, rub the window or mirror dry with a soft cloth. 

Laundry Soap
This literally comes out to cost pennies a load!
(This is for powdered detergent.) 
2 cups bar soap (finely grated)
1 cup washing soda (This is different than baking soda.)
1 cup borax
Mix all ingredients well and store in an airtight plastic container.  Use ¼ cup per load of laundry.

Fabric Softener
Add ¼ cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washer.

Air Freshener
To make your house smell like freshly baked goodies, how about actually baking some?  Then, your house will smell great, and you’ll get a yummy treat after all your hard work!

Now that you see how easy and inexpensive it is to make your own cleaning supplies, you may never see aisle seven again!  So, goodbye aisle seven, hellooooooooo old fashioned, modern clean!   

  This story was inspired by my Grandma Dorothy, who is pictured above.  Grandma Dorothy is the best house keeper I have ever met.  She owns at least three vacuums (which have three different cleaning purposes) and dust screams at the mention of her name.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crossroads School

I always see her in the morning around 6:45.  It's the time of day when the sky is filled with a beautiful glow of pink and purple ribbons as the sun starts to spread across the sky.  As I open my car door, before I climb inside and start the 25 mile drive to work, I pause and look out over the fields. 

As I gaze at the quiet landscape and breathe in the cool, crisp morning air, I see her coming.  She's walking steadily, and quickly, with her skirt swishing about her legs.  A book is tucked under one arm, and a lunch pail is swinging by her side.  I blink, and just as quickly as she came, she's gone. 

Who is this beautiful lady, and why is she walking across our field at 6:45 in the morning? The answers to those questions, lie in a time many years ago. 

The beautiful lady is Joey's Great-Great Aunt Bea.  She was the school mistress at the Crossroads School.  The Crossroads School is a beautiful, old, one-room, rock school house.  It stands right next door to our farm. 

Of course, it hasn't functioned as a school for many years, and is currently serving as a house for an older couple.  It's been added onto over the years, but the basic structure still remains.  When you drive by, on the way to the farm, you can easily point it out as an old school.

Back many years ago, almost every little community had their own one room school.  The teacher personally knew each student and their family.  The school was the heart of the community.  From spelling bees to box suppers, it was a cherished place.  Over the years, these tiny schools and communities disappeared as transportation and roads improved.  Many folks stopped farming and began to find work elsewhere.  Students moved away.  "Progress" moved us forward into modern times. 

I often think about the one room school, and wonder about that word, "progress".  Has it been progressive to bus children for hours each day instead of letting them walk a mile down a gravel road?  Has it been progressive to take away any mention of Bible stories or prayer, but to try and teach character and values?  Has it been progressive to legislate and mandate when, where, and how every single idea must be taught?  Has it been progressive to not use multi-age groupings, where each child can learn at their own pace in each subject?  

Sometimes, I think that progress may have progressed a little to far...

If you are sitting on our front porch, you can look through the woods, and just catch a glimpse of the old rock school.  A part of our garden was the baseball field where the kids played ball at recess.  I think about all the little feet that made their way down the road in front of the house; all the lessons the children learned next door in reading, arithmetic, and real-life; the spelling bees and community events that were held; the families that came together to fellowship and celebrate education.  Most of all, I think about Aunt Bea, and what it would have been like to teach at the Crossroads School. 

If you've read my other articles, you know that many times, here on the farm, the past and present blend together in an old fashioned, modern way.  That's probably why I have to ask myself this question:  "Could the old, one room, Crossroads school, still function as a modern one room school today?".  While many eschew the one room school house as a thing of the past, I believe that it could function now - in a delightfully old-fashioned, modern way!

For the old-fashioned part, I still would have a multi-aged grouping of students.  This type of grouping allows students to learn at their own pace.  As a Christian, I also love the idea of a Bible story and a prayer each day.  Since play and fresh air are vitally important for children, three recesses a day would be a must.  Traditional subjects, such as arithmetic, reading, and spelling, would still be sticking around.

And then came "progress"... Only this time, it's in a good way!  For the modern part, you wouldn't find any old blackboards or slates in this one room school.  Instead, students would use beautifully colored workbooks, paper, and of course, digital tools!  Computers would be a big part of the modern, one room, school house.  With computers, virtually any subject area a  student might wish to learn about, could be easily explored. 

Another beautiful thing about my old fashioned, modern, one-room school would be the location.  If we were studying about animals or Earth Science, an immediate field trip could be taken, simply by stepping out the door, and over to the farm!

I know, I know...I need to come back down to Earth.  Some of you are probably turning pale, contemplating insurance and legal issues with my old fashioned, modern school, that I've never even thought about.  Don't worry.  My little school is only a dream in my imagination. 

Speaking of imagination, just in case you're wondering, I haven't really ever seen Aunt Bea walking across the field in the morning.  But sometimes, I'd like to.  If I ever do, I think I will stop her, and ask her, just what she would think about an old fashioned, modern, Crossroads School. 

I think, she would highly approve! 

Besides being the school mistress at the Crossroads School, Aunt Bea was also a very talented seamstress. She sewed many beautiful wedding dresses for the young brides around the area.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

From One Generation To Another

I love old things.  In this day and age of cheap, plastic, throwaway items, it's refreshing to find something old and solid, that was made to last.  Most older items were made with care right here in the United States.  They were functional, beautiful, and purposeful.  What a wonderful combination!

Outside on the farm, and inside the farm house, old items abound.  They aren't valuable antiques that sit on a shelf, just good old items that are priceless to us.  Many have been passed down from one generation to another. 

One of my favorite items in the farm kitchen is my Great-Grandma Bessie's earthenware bowl.  In the 1940s and 1950s, she normally used it to make cottage cheese in each week on her farm.  Today, I use it for everything from muffins to meatloaf.

Every time I get it out of the cupboard, I see her face and feel such a strong connection to the past.  As I mix and stir, my hand rests firmly on the edge of the bowl, just where hers used to sit.  For a brief moment, I imagine that our hearts touch across the years; two women happily preparing good food on the farm for their families.  As I cook, I tell my daughter Elizabeth stories about her Great-Great-Grandma Bessie and her famous hot rolls and fried chicken.

Elizabeth has joined me as I'm writing this, and says that I need to mention one of her favorite old things.  She loves to cook as much (or maybe more!) than I do.  At five years old, one of her most prized possessions is her 1955 Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook. 

Whenever we're undecided about what to make for supper, she usually whips out this little red and white checkered book and begins searching for ideas.  She is also very enamoured with old children's stories.  Right now, we're on our second read of The Boxcar Children, which was published in 1942. 

 Elizabeth and I with our treasures.  My mom made our vintage style aprons. 

Another treasured old item inside the farmhouse was given to us by Joey's mother.  It is a small blue ledger dated 1946-1947.  Our farm has been in Joey's family for well over 100 years.  This particular ledger was kept by Joey's Great-Great Grandfather J.T. Lovelace. 

Reading the old entries in this ledger reminds us that we are not the first, nor will we be the last, to care for and improve this land.  We take this responsibility very seriously and use organic practices and common sense methods to keep the land healthy and strong.

Each colorful entry in the ledger tells an amazing story all it's own of hard work, integrity, and good stewardship.  Here are a few:
-Two Bales Cotton (sold for) $305.00
-Bought 75 White Pullets - $14.00
-Bought 1/2 interest in a car - $150.00
-Had a Pond Built - $18.75

When I asked Joey what his favorite, old, outside farm item is, he laughed and said, "Everything we've got is old!".  When I pinned him down to choosing one item, he said that it would have to be the 1947 Ford 8n tractor.  He enjoys the 8n because, after 65 years, it's still doing exactly what it was designed to do - make the farmer's life easier.

 Joey and his Grandpa Howard on the old 8n around 1986. 

His second favorite outside item is his great grandma's old wheelbarrow.  Joey's great grandma was known to everyone as "Granny".  Granny was a true blue farm lady and grandmother.  Our farmhouse stands in the very spot where her house stood, and part of our garden actually was hers. 

Joey loves her wheelbarrow for gathering and washing potatoes.  Every summer of his life, he and his family have dug the potatoes, put them in the wheelbarrow, and sorted and washed them under the big oak tree in the backyard.  The tradition still continues today. 

 Joey and Elizabeth using Granny's old wheelbarrow to wash potatoes.

At our farm, inside and out, old things are still alive and well.  Time seems to slip away and the years between the generations grow hazy as you return to a simpler way of life.  Elizabeth runs happily across the same fields that her Grandma Charlene did when she was a child.  Joey's hands work the same soil that his great-great grandfather did.  I enjoying watch them out the farm kitchen window while I'm stirring up a cake or a batch of cookies. My hand rests on the side of the earthenware bowl as I stir, and I smile and begin to sing, "In the Garden", which happened to be, Grandma Bessie's favorite song. 

*After reading the above article, you can probably tell, that one of our favorite decades is the 1940's.  We recently found an incredible project created by Joe Wertheim.  You can check it out at  We love his work!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sometimes You Have to Plant Cantaloupe

I know, I know, I know.  You're thinking, "Really?  Plant cantaloupe?  It's January!".  But yes, it's true!  Sometimes, you do have to plant cantaloupe.  Maybe I should explain...

It all started one hot summer day several years ago.  I was lying on the couch trying to recover from a cesarean section and was feeling rather sorry for myself that I wasn't able to just jump up and do whatever I wanted.

My dad, who has a registered nursing degree, had come over to spend the day with me to help me with my new little one. 

As I painfully got up to walk (or should I say creep?) to the kitchen, I sighed.  Dad took one look at my face and could tell there was something wrong.  "I know I shouldn't complain about the way I feel when there are people much worse off than I am, but Dad.... I don't think I'm ever going to feel better.  I'm going to be stuck on the couch for the rest of my life."

Dad, with all his professional care giving experience, tried to suppress a grin.  He assured me that I most certainly would feel better and would most definitely not be stuck on the couch for the rest of my life. 

Then, he told me a story that has stuck with me ever since. 

As Dad settled back in his chair, he began his story.  "I remember the day you were born.  I had never been around many babies before and you were so little, tiny, and precious.  I was afraid you might break.  The first night you were home, I sat up all night watching you to make sure you were still breathing.  I even woke you up to eat when you didn't wake up at your feeding times."  He grimaced, "Your mother didn't appreciate me waking you up to much."  He continued on, "Before you were born, I had worried about your mother and prayed for her health during the delivery.  To top everything off, times were hard and money was tight.  About a week after you came home, I found I had landed myself in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer.  After a week, I was released and got to come home." 

He stopped at this point and took a good hard look at me.  He said, "I came home to you and your mother and felt like death.  But, when I looked at you girls, I realized that no matter how bad I felt, I had to keep going."

"Before I got sick, I had bought seeds and started planting our garden.  I was ready to plant the next thing on the list, which happened to be cantaloupe.  So, out I went, and barely crawling along on my hands and knees,  I mounded up the dirt, and planted those cantaloupe."

I sat staring at him.  "Goodness Dad!  Do you really think that was the best thing for you to do?"  He shrugged and said, "It doesn't matter if it was the best thing or not.  It had to be done."  Then he gave me a long look.  "Sometimes, you just have to keep going."

This story has changed my life in so many ways.  At times when I am struggling, or feel overwhelmed, I see Dad out there, pale and thin, crawling along, doing what needed to be done.  He just kept going.  He could have laid in bed, probably should have laid in bed, but instead, he chose to hold his head up, throw his shoulders back, and keep going.  He had cantaloupe to plant. 

So, what about you?  Do you have cantaloupe to plant?  We all have times where we have problems or situations that seem to completely overwhelm us.  Be strong, keep going, and start planting. 

This is my Dad and I on the farm where I grew up.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Let's Bring Back the Mom and Pop Shops!

Have you driven down a small town main street lately?  Was it pretty bare?  Many around our area are.  What happened to all the little shops?  You know the ones I mean - the mom and pop shops where the owners knew your name, could practically guess what you'd come in to buy, knew exactly where it was, and could tell you almost anything you wanted to know about it.

You may have one of these shops in your area.  We are blessed to still have quite a few.  When compared to a modern big box store - well, there actually is no comparison!  

How can you compare a small comfortable shop with a large, concrete, million foot structure; a greeter who says hello to hundreds of people, to someone who knows your name; aisle after endless aisle of imported products from China, to carefully selected products - including locally made items; a tired check out clerk who only accepts cash or credit cards, with a friendly shopkeeper who accepts cash, credit cards, or who might even be willing to barter or trade goods or services?

There is simply no comparison.  When I leave my favorite local mom and pop shops, I usually have a smile on my face, have enjoyed a nice visit with the shopkeeper, and am pleased with the items that I bought.  When I leave a big box store, I'm usually stressed, and somehow feel a little cheated. 

One of the biggest complaints I hear is that, "I'd shop locally at mom and pop shops, but I can't afford it".  I think almost everyone has been in a tight spot before with finances.  Sometimes we don't have as much to spend as others and sometimes there's no extra at all.  

What I personally find is that most of the time, the mom and pop shops have the same or very comparable prices to the big box stores.  Many times, the big box stores don't even carry the products that I want to buy.  If the price does happen to be a little  more, I'd rather pay an extra five or ten dollars to support a local shopkeeper than a giant corporation.  

How many folks do you know that don't think twice about spending five dollars on junk food at the gas station or at a fast food drive through, but  would turn up their nose at paying a little more for a local item?  We need to make a conscious decision to support the mom and pop shops that are such an important and special part of our communities.  In this case, smaller is better.  Speaking of smaller...

Our farm is one of those little, local, small places.  We aren't a mom and pop shop, but we are a mom, and pop, and grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and cousins farm.  We're not fancy or flashy.  Our tractor is from the 1940s and our equipment is either made by Joey from old scrap metal, or bought second hand.  

Just like the mom and pop shop storekeepers, we are so blessed to have a strong personal connection with our customers.   

Even as we make out our lists of seeds to buy, we are picturing some of their faces.  "How many beets do you think we need to plant this year?" "Better put in extra.  Mrs. Smith loves to make her sweet pickled beets."  "What about kale?"  "Hmm...well, I remember that Mr. McCoy and Mrs. James juice kale like crazy, and Mrs. Green and her family love baking kale chips, so we'd better make sure we have quite a bit of kale too." 

Some of our customers even have fond nicknames.  We have "the radish guy" and "the pepper man" that we see frequently.  The thing is....most of our customers are not just customers.  Sure, they started out that way, but they quickly became friends. 

It's almost impossible to not become friends with someone when you see them every week and provide part of their weekly food supply.  99.9% of our customers are true blue, salt of the Earth people.  They are the kind of folks what will stop to help if you have car trouble, the ones that show up at your door with a covered dish if you're sick, and are, basically, just awesome folks!  There's always that .1% that are a little cantankerous, but we love them anyway! 

We whole-heartedly enjoy having a strong connection with the folks who love our produce and farm.

At this point, are you thinking, "I would love to buy my produce from a farmer that knew my name, or do my shopping at a place where the shopkeeper was an old friend."?  Well, what's stopping you?  Go find one!

You can help make an incredible change in your town just by changing your shopping habits.  Start shopping at local farms and small businesses.  Let's bring back the mom and pop shops!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Exactly is an Old Fashioned Modern Life?

Well, since I made up this description, you would think I would know, but actually, I'm still finding out.  Honestly, I think I still may be finding out when I'm old and gray.  I sure hope so anyway!

For now, I'll tell you a little about what an old fashioned modern life means to me at this point in time.  Let's start with the old fashioned part.

On our farm and in our family life, we have many old fashioned things.  Some of the most important things are our morals, values, and traditions; such as honesty, keeping your word, honoring God, being loyal and true, taking care of your family, and helping your neighbors.  Of course, there are many more - really to many to list, but those give you an idea.  

It also means that we tend to enjoy old fashioned activities such as reading aloud to each other, singing, playing board games, doing puzzles, playing croquet, or pitching horseshoes instead of staring blankly at the television or the latest video game.

That's not to say that we don't have a television.  We do, kind of...  Our computer is in our living room and we do enjoy watching programs on Hulu or other similar sites.  We don't normally watch hours of television at a time, and many days, don't watch it at all.  If you are looking for some extra time in your life, try turning off the television.  It's amazing what you can do with those extra hours!

We are also old fashioned in that we have a very close knit family.  We work, learn, and play together daily.  Joey's parents and my parents live close by and we see them almost daily.  We are so blessed to be able to learn from them about everything from raising a family to working on the farm. 

We try to live an old fashioned lifestyle and be as self-sufficient as we can.  This means that we do things like make our own lye soap in a cast iron kettle, we can and preserve most all of our food, and we make many of the things that we need for day to day living.

Well, that about covers the old fashioned part, but what about the modern?  Although we do love old fashioned things, the modern age has some pretty great things to!  How about that indoor plumbing and running water?! 

Electricity, technology, and computers are all very much a part of our everyday lives.  While many things from the past are still alive and well at the farm, we do realize that we live in a modern age with many wonderful inventions and ideas.  Even though I am totally enamored with the idea of having a horse and buggy, Joey practically points out that I would not be enamored with the horse and buggy when I was making the 25 mile drive to work each day.  Thank goodness for our modern vehicle!       

Sometimes, it's a fine line to make the two worlds mesh, but they always seem to come together in the best possible way, which makes for an amazing old fashioned modern life!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

An Old Fashioned Modern Life

Our family is a little...well....different.  "You're so cool!", is a common phrase that we hear from our customers at the local farmer's market.  Friends will say, "You have such an interesting life!  I don't know how you do it all!", and several co-workers refer to me as "Betty Crocker".

We really didn't start out to be different.  It's just that once we got outside the box, we realized that we didn't want to get back in.  It all started several years ago with a jar of baby food... 

Our little girl, Elizabeth, was ready for her first jar of baby food.  As a new and overprotective mother, I had made a rule that anything I expected my little girl to eat, I would try myself first.  The jar of creamed bananas didn't look appetizing, but, if I expected her to eat it, I would to.  So, I took a tentative bite.  It was worse than it looked.  My mouth was filled with the full flavor of citric acid with a hint of something that mildly resembled banana.  Thinking maybe it was just the banana that tasted bad, I popped the lids off several other flavors and sampled them.  They were all equally bad and tasted nothing like real food.

Starting at that moment, my husband Joey and I began making our own baby food for our little girl.  As we did, we began reading and learning about our food supply and finding out exactly what was in the food we were eating.

We both came from families that gardened, canned, and preserved food.  We had grown a small garden and canned several jars of green beans, and had made a batch or two of jelly.  After becoming more educated about GMOs, food processing, and chemical ingredients, we realized that we needed to grow more.

That same year, God sent us an amazing blessing.  Joey lost his job.  Now, I know that doesn't sound like much of a blessing.  With a seven month old baby and partial paychecks from maternity leave at my job, we thought it was more of a nightmare.  But, as always, God had a plan for our lives.

Joey began immediately looking for work, which was scarce to be found.  Since he was home, he also watched Elizabeth while I went back to work teaching school.  That Spring, with finances so tight it hurt, and our new knowledge of food, Joey decided to plant a big garden.  That year was a fantastic garden year. 

Elizabeth adored being outside in the bright sunlight and napped in her stroller under the old apple tree while Joey worked the soil and tended the plants. 

Over the next two years, Joey continued to look for work without a job in sight.  The garden grew a little wider and a little longer every year.  Running and playing in the sunshine and fresh air, Elizabeth grew to.  We began having extra vegetables and began to go to our local farmer's market to sell them on Saturdays. 

The next year, we realized that the garden was turning into more than just a garden.  We got chickens, Joey built a little greenhouse using trees from the farm and old glass that people wanted hauled away.  Joey stopped looking for a job because he realized that, somewhere along the way, he had found the perfect job.  Just as his great-great grandfather, and his great-grandfather had done, Joey had turned into a farmer. 

We decided to call our farm "Crossroads Gardens".  The area where we live is an old town called Crossroads.  Starting the farm also was a crossroads in our lives.  It was a point where we decided we wanted to take a different path and turn away from the mainstream food supply, day cares, and values.  We realized that we wanted to have an old fashioned modern life.