Category Archives: Uncategorized

In Shape

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“You know, it’s almost spring.  You really need to start working out every day so you can get in shape for planting season.” my in-shape, husband Joey said.

“Mmmmm hmmm….” I mumbled back without looking up from the school materials I was looking over.  In my head, I thought to myself, “I have plenty of time to get ready for planting season….waaaaaaay more time than anyone could need to get in shape.”

Well, you can imagine where this is heading!  I spent the rest of the winter putting off exercising, and spring arrived faster than a bolt of lightning.  Before I knew it, I was sending my students out the schoolroom door and telling them to enjoy their spring break!

Despite the fact that I put off exercising all winter, I was pretty sure that I could just “wing it” for all the planting sessions that would be happening on our farm.  I would be helping to plant thousands of onions and hundreds of pounds of potatoes.  We would be doing all of this planting by hand, but did this bother me?  Naaah!

Planting began, and about halfway down the first row, I realized I had made a slight mistake.  By the end of the first row, I realized that things were not going to work out as I had planned.  “Winging it” had turned into trying to survive it.

As the rest of my family members passed me singing songs with cheery smiles (I am not kidding.), I had to face reality.  I had to admit it. Joey was right!  I should have gotten in shape!

I’d like to say that this year is the only year that this has happened, but I have to be truthful. This same scene replays itself almost every year!  Honestly, you’d think I’d learn my lesson!

The truth is, gardening season and I have a complicated relationship.  I love our farm, providing fresh produce for local folks, and helping others learn about becoming more self-sufficient.  I love watching my husband make hundreds of beautiful plants grow in the greenhouse and in the fields.  I love hearing him share his gardening knowledge with other folks.  He is truly amazing!  But, people always assume that I since I’m the farmer’s wife, I am also amazing at growing things and have hundreds of nifty garden tips.

Well, I’m here to tell you, that’s not exactly true.  Wanna learn how to do a vintage hairstyle?  I’m your gal!  Need to know how to make an angel food cake from scratch or how to churn butter?  That’s me!  Need to know something about how to teach in a modern one room schoolhouse?  I can fill you in!  Want to know the best way to keep your tomato plants up and going?  Ummm……we’d better ask Joey.

I am great at many things, but being a garden expert doesn’t exactly hit the top of my list.  Ya’ll, I have even killed aloe vera plants before.  True story.  Thank goodness for Joey!  But also, thank goodness for me.  Thank goodness for me?  Yes, for me!  Even though Joey is definitely the driving force behind our little farm, we work together to make things come alive.

He plans and directs, I (along with the rest of our family) help.  I send out emails, keep our farm Facebook page updated, and keep our website going.  He helps folks with gardening advice.  I help folks with vintage clothing advice.  Okay….so maybe that part about vintage clothing advice doesn’t happen very often, but I’m pretty sure that I have helped a couple of ladies figure out where to order vintage style dresses from.

My point is that it takes us both.  Even though I may have been out of shape for planting season…again…I did get some things planted and was a little bit of a help.  I guarantee if I asked Joey to update our website or send out a farm email to all our subscribers, he’d be a little out of shape in those two areas.  We each have been blessed with different gifts and when we work together, it makes everything work out just right.

 

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Greenhouses and Gratefulness

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The past couple of weeks have been full of surprises here on the farm.  As you know, last month we had a major crop loss when mice got into our greenhouse and devoured several of our crops. Through the generosity of family and friends, God blessed us with the financial means to buy more seeds and restart.  The mice alluded capture, but a good friend provided a temporary solution to keep our tender plants safe – stack the trays on top of slick sided pots.  Thankfully, this has worked well!  The little plants and herbs have been thriving, but….we ran out of room!  Usually, Joey does our spring planting in three rotations.  Once the first plants and herbs are old enough, he is able to move them out into a sun heated hoop house where they can start to get used to a little cooler temperature.  However, the crop failure forced us to plant two rotations at once.  There simply wasn’t enough room for all the trays.  There was only one solution – fire up the “little” greenhouse.

On our farm, all of our greenhouses and hoop houses are designed and built by Joey, using whatever materials he had on hand or that we were able to afford.  We have the “big” greenhouse, which is built off the back of Joey’s shop, and we have the “little” greenhouse, which is in our backyard.  I love the little greenhouse for so many reasons.  It was the first greenhouse that Joey ever built and almost all of it was built with materials he had on hand.  The little greenhouse has windows and doors that had been saved from remodeling jobs of the homes of various family members.  When we first started using the little greenhouse, our daughter, Elizabeth spent many hours “helping” Joey with the plants.  As a result, the walls are full of crayon markings and pictures that she drew when she was little.  When I walk into the little greenhouse, I can still picture Joey standing at his potting bench and Elizabeth sitting at his feet happily playing with a tub filled with potting soil, water, and rocks.

When we built the big greenhouse, the little greenhouse became a temporary place to hold extra plants.  Joey was thrilled to have the extra room and the nicer heater that the big greenhouse offered.  As the years went by, the little greenhouse began to look a little shabby.  It was built with untreated lumber and, predictably, it began to crumble a little.  Each year, Joey would talk about having to pull it down, and I would tearfully ask if we couldn’t keep it just a little longer.  Happily, he was always so busy that he never had time to tear it apart.  Plus, it kept coming in handy for the extra plant storage.

Fast forward to this week!  With the plants threatening to burst out of the big greenhouse, Joey had to do something – and fast!  He spent quite a while looking over the little greenhouse and then got to work.  He took out the old pot-bellied wood stove and gave it a good cleaning, replaced two windows that were cracked beyond repair, replaced boards, and braced up walls.  When he was all done, I was amazed!  The pot-bellied wood stove had a crackling fire going in it.  The handmade wooden shelves were clean and shining, and the little greenhouse lived again!

Once the temperature in the little greenhouse was warm enough, the whole family was enlisted to help get the plants from the big greenhouse to the little greenhouse.  Two vehicles ran back and forth between the greenhouses and you’ve never seen trays of plants move so quickly from one place to another!  The only downside to the little greenhouse is that Joey has to keep a constant check on the pot-bellied stove to make sure the temperature stays where it needs to.  Other than that, it is a fabulous surprise to have it up and going again.  Joey has warned me that all his repairs are only a temporary fix and that eventually, the little greenhouse will have to come down.  But, for now, I’m delighting in seeing it in use again and enjoying all the memories that it brings back.  I’m also thankful to see our little plants growing and thriving.  What a blessing!

Speaking of blessings, we were surprised this week to find notes of encouragement and donations to our farm from two different couples.  Both were left when we were not home and it was quite a wonderful shock to find these gifts.  Their encouraging words were further confirmation for us that we are on the right path.  Words can’t describe how much it means when someone cares enough to show their appreciation for our farm and family.  It is something that we will never forget.

In the next couple of weeks, we will continue planting, continue working, and continue praying.  We are so grateful for all that God has blessed us with and look forward to a wonderful spring season!

Where He Leads, I’ll Follow

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“Dear Lord, what do we do now?  Please, please, please show us the path that you want us to take.” As I prayed these words one morning last week, I was reeling with the shock of the bad news that Joey had just given me.  He had just finished doing an early morning greenhouse check and to his horror, discovered that our entire pepper crop had been destroyed by mice.  It’s not unusual for a mouse or two to find its way into the greenhouse, but for an entire crop to be eaten was unheard of.  Yes, the loss of the peppers was quite a blow, but things were about to get worse.

That day, Joey prepared for war with the mice.  He set out traps and did all the usual things that we do to eliminate mice.  We prayed for the safety of the rest of our little plants and prayed that the mice would be caught.  The next morning, Joey went down to check the greenhouse.  The look on his face when he came back in the house was enough to tell me that there was trouble.  The news was bad.  The traps had not worked, and we had lost the entire tomato and eggplant crop.

Now, you all know that we take pride in our plants.  We buy excellent seed from reputable sources, which means that it’s not cheap. With the crop losses from last year, this had already been a tight year financially on the farm.  Now, not only were our new crops gone, but we had no money to replace the expensive seeds to try and start again.  We were so bewildered and confused.  Was God trying to lead us in a different direction?  Was this an attack from the enemy trying to destroy us?  Again, we joined hands and prayed for guidance.

We made our way to church that morning with heavy hearts.  As we found our way to our seats, I brushed past my mother-in-law who said, “You don’t look quite yourself this morning”.  In a whisper soft voice, I barely could choke out the words to tell her that all the crops were gone.

As Joey sat down, one of the ladies from our church pressed an envelope into his hand.  When we opened it, we saw it was a beautiful card for our upcoming anniversary.  When we looked inside the card, we were shocked to find that it contained money.  With that, I began to feel hot tears sliding down my face.  We filled our church members in on what had happened and they prayed with us and offered such wise words of counsel.  They all shared stories of hard and puzzling times that they had been through and told us that even though they didn’t know the answer to our problem, God did and that he would take care of us.  God used their support and encouragement to wrap us in a blanket of love and protection and by the time that the service ended, I was feeling much steadier.

That night, we got phone calls and texts offering help in replanting from many different church and community members.  The outpouring of support was tremendous, but even though we had willing workers, we didn’t have the means to replace the seeds.  At our evening prayer, we once again poured our hearts out to God, wondering what to do.  Did God have something in mind for us other than the farm?

The next day, we were approached by two different ladies, who each handed us folded up money and said that they just wanted to help out.  We were stunned.  Between the envelope that we had been given at church and these two ladies, we had the exact amount that we needed to replace the seeds.  We had never told anyone how much it would cost to replace the seeds and we had never told anyone that we didn’t have enough to replace the seeds.  This could only be from God.

Again, we prayed and Joey and I both felt that God was telling us to try again.  So, this week, Joey will go back into the greenhouse and dump out all those trays with broken plants and start fresh with tiny new seeds.  Life isn’t always easy.  It isn’t always fair.  It certainly doesn’t always make sense.  We are blessed to have new seeds and new potting soil, but we are immeasurably blessed to have a powerful God.  I can’t say for certain that the mice will stay away.  I can’t say for certain that everything will turn out perfectly.  But, I can absolutely, positively say that God is still in control.  Is His plan for us to keep farming?  We hope so.  We still don’t have all the answers or even everything we need to get through the whole season, but we do have hope, prayer, and a powerful God that we can call on at any time for guidance and direction.  We are walking in faith, taking baby steps.  Where He leads, we will follow.

Soldiering On

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I was feeling restless this morning, so I began to pray and decided to read my Bible for a little while.  I randomly opened my Bible to the book of Proverbs and came upon Proverbs Chapter 24.  Several of the verses in that chapter jumped out at me and I wanted to share my thoughts about what those verses meant to me.  Before you read this, please know that I am far from being perfect and these thoughts apply to myself as much as anyone else.

As a Christian, my strength comes from the Lord.  I can grow in strength by reading my Bible, spending time in prayer, and keeping my mind pure by monitoring what I read, listen to, watch, and talk about.

The war Christians wage is against Satan and the powers of darkness.  There are many different “fronts” and battles being fought in this war.  Some are individual and personal, others are ones that we come alongside friends, family members, or even complete strangers to help them fight, and still others are ones that are on an even larger scale that affect our whole country or world.  Whatever the scale- private or world-wide- they are all against the same enemy- Satan.

Being a Christian is nothing to play at.  When you are called to fight, you must be prepared to place your trust in the Lord, even though the whole world may be shaking around you.

In these times, hold fast to your faith and to God.  “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10)  We all reach a point where we have to decide, “Am I going to be bold and trust God, or am I going to lose faith and sink into despair?”.

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.”  (Proverbs 24:11) Reach out to your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.  Pray for them and with them.  Be present.  Show up, even if you don’t feel like it.  Just the simple fact that someone cared enough to show up or make a phone call can be very meaningful in a time of grief or struggle.

“…for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.”  (Proverbs 24:6)  The word of God and the counsel of mature Christians are both excellent weapons in this war that we wage.

The battles may rage, but it is our job as Christians to hold the line and to hold up each other.  Never underestimate the power of praying, reading your Bible, and living your life in accordance with the Word of God.  And, always remember, that the battle may be fierce, but through Christ, the victory has already been won.

Get In Control

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The past 12 months have brought some major changes for me.  I walked away from a dream school district and a dream job that I had spent several years and lots of money (that I still owe) getting certified for.  I stepped out in a major (for me) move of faith into an uncertain adventure that no one had ever tried before.  I planned, I prayed, I cried, I reasoned, and I tried to figure out how I could control an uncontrollable and unknown future.

About the same time as I was struggling with the idea of changing jobs, my dad began to seriously struggle with major health issues.  As an only child and a daddy’s girl, it made me ache to watch my once strong daddy, who could always pull himself up by his own bootstraps and fix anything, sink deeper and deeper away from himself.  I wanted to fix it, to help him.  I could feel him slipping, but my best efforts to help- going to doctor’s appointments with him and mom, encouraging him to take his prescribed medicines, having stern and serious talks, and crying many desperate tears into my pillow late at night didn’t seem to have any effect.

And then, there was my beloved husband, and the farm.  Joey works harder than any person I have ever met.  He has a heart of gold and is absolutely brilliant.  But, Joey has never been an inside “office job” kind of guy.  He thrives on being outside and working with his hands.  God has mightily blessed him with a talent for growing and nurturing all sorts of plants, trees, and berries.  He is an amazing farmer and he loves farming more than anything in the world.  All this is well and good, but the thing that was bothering me was money and supplies.  As anyone who has ever tried to run a small farm on a shoe string budget knows, farming income isn’t exactly certain.  Our last growing season seemed to be full of problems, from uncooperative weather, to needing more soil amendments, to equipment that kept breaking.  It was painful to see Joey trying so hard and not being able to make everything go smoothly for him.

I wanted to get quick answers to all these things that were heavy on my heart.  I needed to get things under control and know for certain that it was all going to turn out okay.  After all, I’m still fairly young (I think?), of basic intelligence, and I have my daddy’s “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” spirit.  Surely, I could think of a way to solve all these issues.

So, with all this sure and certain knowledge, I began to think hard.  I thought, and thought, and thought.  I thought early in the morning when I first work up.  I thought about it late at night into the early hours of the morning.  My mind raced around and around until my head felt like it was going to explode.  I asked other people for their ideas and solutions.  I looked up answers on the Internet.  I did everything I could think of, and when I had done all that, I prayed.

When I say that I prayed, I didn’t just say a causal prayer or two.  I mean that I really prayed.  I prayed in the morning when I first woke up.  I prayed late at night into the early hours of the morning.  I prayed until my head felt like it was going to explode.  I asked other people to pray for me and with me.  I prayed so hard that I felt like I was banging with both fists on the gates of heaven shouting and screaming to God to make things controllable.

Guess what?  He didn’t.  He listened to me and comforted me, but he did not let me have what I wanted, which was to be in control.  God found me lying there in a heap, outside heaven’s gates, worn out from crying and worrying and trying to fix everything all by myself.  He gently gathered me up in his arms and reminded me that it’s not my job to be in control.  He wiped away my tears and pried the worries about my job, my daddy, and my husband and farm out of my tightly clenched hands and said that he would take care of all that.

He reminded me that faith is believing that he is God and he is good and he is charge-over everything.  He is God.  He is good.  He is in charge over everything.  Those are powerful words and thoughts, and the best part is that they are true.

This is the part of the article where I am supposed to report that everything is completely wonderful and all my problems are gone.  They aren’t, but there has been quite a change.  That major leap of faith I made in changing jobs has been the most exciting and amazing thing I’ve ever done.  I still miss my old co-workers, but I’ve found that friendship doesn’t stop just because you don’t see each other every day.  As for my daddy, well, he has his ups and downs.  This week, it’s been more up than down, so that’s a blessing.  And, despite the hardships of last season, Joey has once again fired up the greenhouse this week and is working his magic with all the tiny seeds and plants.

The biggest change hasn’t been with my problems, it’s been with me.  Through all this, God has shown me that I’m not in charge, even if I sometimes try to pretend that I am. He is teaching me to appreciate each day, and sometimes even each moment.  When I start to falter and take control, I can turn to him and let him be in charge.  Life is uncertain, but all things are possible with God.

 

 

Farmer of the Year

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As I was driving to work this morning, I was soaking in the silence of being alone.  My mind was rolling around and I was hoping that a story would begin to form that I could write about today.  I went through many possibilities.  I noticed the beautiful sunlit morning and thought about writing about being thankful for what is around us.  I thought about the pot luck that I was supposed to bake something for and considered writing about a delicious old-fashioned recipe.  Somehow, nothing seemed quite right.  On and off through the day, I keep going back to that one thought….”what will I write about tonight?”.  I pondered this question all the way home and was still thinking about it as I was walking outside to see what my husband Joey was up to.

As I walked down the lane between two of our garden patches, I saw Joey leaning against the tractor getting something to drink.  He was hot, muddy, and looked like he was exhausted.  He smiled when he saw me coming.  My heart skipped a beat, and suddenly, I realized that even though this is a farm blog, I’ve never written very much about the farmer.

A typical day in the life of my husband is crammed to the brim with work, work, and a little more work.  Joey almost always is up and ready to work early in the morning.  He’ll throw on a pair of work jeans, layers of shirts (depending on how hot the day is), work boots, his old straw hat, and he’s out the door.  He is the most motivated person I’ve ever seen.  If there’s something that needs done, he’ll work in the rain, snow, or mud to finish the job.  It’s not unusual in the spring and summer for him to be outside from dawn until past dark.  When people visit the farm, it’s not uncommon for them to ask Joey how many people he has working for him to keep everything tilled, planted, mowed, and kept up.  When he tells them that he does most of the work himself, their look of surprise is priceless!

Speaking of priceless, as you can imagine, being a farmer doesn’t usually pull in a six figure salary!  Many times, if there is an item that we need for the farm or house, Joey will try his best to figure out how to make it himself.  Besides being blessed with a gift for farming, he’s also been blessed with a gift for engineering and building.  I don’t know how many times I’ve come home to find that he’s found a way to fix or improve something that was on its last legs.

Joey works so hard on our farm to provide for our family, but somehow he always manages to make time for our daughter Elizabeth and I each evening.  Whether we are relaxing in the living room listening as I read a good book aloud, taking a walk outside, or having our nightly prayer time, we are a close family that enjoys being together.

Joey is the 5th generation in his family to live and work on the land that makes up our farm.  He comes from a long line of honest, hardworking men that have loved their families and raised their little girls (and boys) here on the farm.  He’s proud of his heritage and it easily shows in the work that he does and in the practical knowledge that he shares with others.  He’s always willing to talk about gardening or farming with anyone that asks.

I’m not quite sure what Joey will think when he reads this blog that I’m about to post. He’s a pretty modest guy and will probably roll his eyes at me!  He and I have had a running joke for the last ten years or so that he’s “farmer of the year”.  We always say it jokingly, but whenever I look at his sun-tanned and weather-beaten face or see him working in the field, I know in my heart that it’s not really a joke to me.  I’m so thankful for all his hard work on the farm and all that he does to help others learn how to grow their own food and carry on the old ways of planting and growing.  Our family is so blessed by this wonderful man and he will always be a treasure to me.

Here’s a photo that I took of Joey checking some of the plants.

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Something for Ed

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It was the blue color of the box that caught my eye.  That, and the small patch of faded silver-metallic ink.  As I quickly edged closer to it, I was able to read the lettering across the top, which said “General Electric Portable Steam Iron”.  Hmmm….this could be interesting!  I carefully opened the lid and smiled as I saw a small, shiny, chrome and black iron nestled snugly alongside a black cloth cord and a tan cloth carrying case. Jackpot!

My petticoat swished against the red and white gingham dress that I was wearing as I hurried across the antique store to find my husband Joey.  When I reached him, I cautiously held out my exciting find.  “Look at this!”, I hopefully exclaimed.  My good-natured husband turned around to see what I was holding.  “An iron?” he groaned.  “We already have an iron and it’s a perfectly good one.  Besides that, where would we keep it?”

“We don’t have a shiny, chrome, portable steam iron that is still in the original box with the warranty papers!”, I said.  Joey raised his eyebrows and sighed.  I continued on, “I’m sure I can find some place for it.  Besides, look at how neat the steam attachment is!  Can we get it?”  My sweet husband looked at me shaking his head.  “I guess so.”, he said. “If you think we really need it.”

If you think we really need it?  Well….that was tricky.  I tried to quickly rationalize this in my head.  Did we really need it?  Practically, no.  We already had a modern iron that worked wonderfully.  But….the problem was, that while I was pretty sure WE didn’t need it, there was something in ME that did need it.

That something in me wanted to rescue it.  I wanted to bring it home, take it out of the carefully packed box, whip out one of my vintage dresses, and make that little chrome iron useful again.  Why?  Who in the world knows?!  I really blame much of it on my Grandma Mary, who also rescued old and forgotten antiques.  For whatever reason, I knew that I had found a treasure.

The story has a happy ending for me (and the iron!).  We purchased it that day and since then, it’s been sitting on my bar.  I’m still trying to figure out where to put it.  I’m guessing I have a couple more days for it to sit on the bar before Joey threatens to give it to the local thrift store.  The little iron makes me smile, but it’s also made me seriously ponder why I feel so drawn to old things.

Like the iron, many of the items I am drawn to are much slower or more tedious to use than their modern-day counterparts.  Although they are slower, these items are often much more durable and have a timeless design when compared to the plastic, “throwaway” items of today.  Another plus, these antique items can often be repaired if something goes wrong.

Durability and timeless design are good reasons for being drawn to an object, but the biggest draw for me, is the repair. “The repair?”, you might ask in surprise.  “Where in the world would you get something like that repaired today?”

“Exactly!”, I would say.

When I was a little girl, I lived in a little midwestern town that had a typical main street.  There were many stores there, but by the 1980s, most of them were going, or had already gone out of business.  One of those stores was “Ed’s TV and Repair Shop”.  Ed was a family friend.  I remember going in that store with my dad and looking at all the televisions around the little shop.  Ed, a tall man with a big smile, would come out from his repair shop in the back to visit with us.  Eventually, Ed’s little shop, along with all the other ones on main street closed.  In a big part, this was due to cheap, modern, plastic, throwaway items.

Have you ever driven through a small town and seen a main street with most of the businesses closed? I have. It makes me sad, wishful, and a little angry, all at the same time.  I think about Ed, and all the other people who used to have shops that made main street a busy and interesting place.  I think about how nice it would be to purchase something and be able to count on having it for many years, instead of just having to throw it away because it’s obsolete, or because it wasn’t made to last more than a few years.

Modern items may be cheaper and easier to obtain, but what we didn’t realize is that when we sacrificed quality for cost, we also sacrificed Ed and all the other store keepers on main street.  We gave up the personal service and customer care that you get when you buy something from a local main street store for a self-service checkout register where you have to scan your own items.

So I’ve decided that when I buy antique items like the iron, in a funny way, I’m being defiant.  I’m going against the grain.  I’m not buying a cheap, plastic, throwaway item.  I’m buying something that is durable, fashionable, and real.  I’m buying something that can be repaired (in one of the few main street shops that are  left).  I’m buying something that connects me with the past.  I’m buying something for Ed.

Something for Ed. Something for Ed, and all the other main street shop keepers whose shops went out of business when the big box store moved into town.  Something for the main street shop keepers who are still hanging in there, working hard and making every sale count.  Something for the main street shop keepers who work hard each day, know each customer by name, and know all about every product they sell.

While it may look like just a small, chrome and black, travel iron with a cloth cord,  it’s really so much more.  It’s a call to return to local shopping and quality items, to make our main streets flourish again and bring back jobs and businesses.

It’s really…something for Ed.

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