A Sweet Saturday Night

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It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon.  This morning, we went to church and then enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant with our family.  I really should be doing some of my college homework right now, but I just had to write and share with you what happened in our community last night.  As most of my long-time blog readers know, I love the community we live in.  I am so proud to get to live in such a beautiful place with such wonderful people.  Last night, was a shining example of why I love the folks in our area.  So, if you have a few minutes, settle in, and follow me to a little church out in the country.

The gravel crunched under our tires as we turned out onto the paved road that leads to one of the little churches in our community.  As we neared the church, we could see that the parking lot was absolutely packed with cars and trucks.  People were even parking along the roadside and in the yard of a neighboring house.  Joey found a place to park our truck and we started to walk up to the church. 

Outside of the church, kids were playing basketball and swinging on the swings.  Grown-ups stood in large groups visiting.  You could hear laughter ringing out across the churchyard as stories were shared.  Shouts of greeting were being yelled to old friends as more folks joined the crowd.  There was an air of happiness and excitement that just seemed contagious!

You might be wondering what in the world was going on at this little church?  Was it a regular church service?  A missionary guest speaker?  A famous evangelist?  Nope, nope, and nope…The focus of all this attention was one very special family.  This family is much loved in our community and they have been having a tough time with medical problems.  Around here, when we know of a family that needs a helping hand, everyone pitches in.  The agenda for tonight was a barbecue benefit to raise money for this family.  

We edged our way into the kitchen to join a long line of folks that were waiting for a barbecue dinner plate.  A local man, who makes mouth-watering barbecue, had volunteered his services to cook the meat.  You could smell the tantalizing smell of the smoked meat from the very back of the line.  Mmmm!!!!!  As we neared the front, everyone put their donation for the dinner into a large jar.  We went through the serving line and came out with plates loaded with barbecue sandwiches, potato salad, chips, beans, coleslaw, homemade cake, and iced tea.  Tables were set up outside and everyone sat around and visited, laughed, and ate their fill of the good food.  

After the dinner was over, the real fun began.  Ladies (and probably some men!) had baked their best desserts.  Local businesses and people had sent gift baskets, gift certificates, and special items.  Kids had donated gently used bicycles and toys.  What was all this for?  Why, the auction, of course!  There were so many folks there that the auction had to be held outside.  We all pulled up our folding chairs and settled back to watch the fun!  

The auctioneers sold everything with a smiles and funny jokes that kept the crowd laughing and having a good time.   Deserts were highly sought after and many were sold for upwards of $50.00 each!  One very special desert even sold for over $100.00!  When a bid went especially high, the crowd would clap and whistle for the bidders.  Everyone laughed as husbands and wives competed against each other, driving the bid up, to get their favorite items.  

The kids played, the grown-ups kicked back in their chairs, and the auction was a resounding success.  

Late in the evening, as dusk began to fall, I sat in my chair feeling the breeze blow across my face.  As I listened to the auctioneer’s  patter, and I looked around at all the familiar faces around me, I felt so richly and mightily blessed to be able to be a part of this night.  I am so thankful to be a part of a community that shows Jesus’s love to others.  As far as I know, there was not one single person at the auction that would be considered “rich” by worldly standards, but by my standards, everyone there was a millionaire.  The Bible tells us it is more blessed to give than to receive.  I know in my heart that all of us there fully felt this last night as we raised money to help a family through a hard time in their lives.  

I had to smile as I remembered that everything comes full circle.  It hasn’t been so long ago that the husband in that family was on his hands and knees, nailing down decking on our house that we were rebuilding after our other home was burned to the ground.  It touched my heart to remember that moment.  This time, it was our turn to give back.  Next time, it might be our turn again, or maybe someone else’s…You never know what life will have in store.  One thing I know for sure is that whatever life holds, I am grateful that it will happen in this blessed place, with these wonderful people, that make up the area I call home. 

The Calm Before the Storm

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Hello everyone!  Today, I thought I’d do a little different type of blog.  Instead of a story, I thought I’d just catch ya’ll up with everything that’s going on around the farm right now.  I love this time of year, but it always makes me a little nervous.  Winter is finally wrapping up and Spring is on its way.  Each new springtime just bursts with the promise of freshness, new life, and warm, balmy days.  Springtime also brings farmer’s market, the end of school (public and homeschool), and a flurry of other activities.  I think of the early days of Spring as the calm before the storm. 🙂  

Right now, I am LOVING the wonderful warm weather!  It’s so nice to run around outside in flip flops and capri pants again.  My feet love being free! Joey has been able to open up the sides on the hoop houses during the day to let out the warm air.  Here is a picture of some of the lettuce growing in our hoop houses.  I can just taste the fresh, healthy, flavor of yummy spring greens!  Mmmm!!!!!

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The greenhouse is, of course, loaded to bursting with plants for the garden and plants to bring to market.  We have some absolutely beautiful herbs and veggie plants! Joey’s green thumb is working overtime keeping everything up and going.  Between watering, keeping a look out for pests, and making sure all the little plants are in the perfect sunny spot, he is always running out to the green house to move something or check on it.  

Another thing that happens at this time of year is that the bees start coming out to tell us hello.  After being snuggled up in their hives during the long, cold, winter, they are full of energy as they buzz around and explore the farm at springtime.  Today, Joey and his Dad went through the hives for a routine check, and filled up the feeders to put on the bee hives.  I love hearing the buzzing sound of the little bees when I walk close by the hives!  

The bees aren’t the only living creatures on the farm that love the warm weather.  The chickens are beyond thrilled to be out and about scratching through the underbrush in the woods finding tasty tidbits of beetles and bugs to munch on.  Our gentle rooster is so funny to watch as he proudly struts around taking care of his “girls”.  

Life on the farm sure is busy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way! We can’t wait for market season to start!  It’s always so exciting to get to see old friends and meet new folks.  We are passionate about teaching others how to garden and be self sufficient.  

Along with market season, comes the end of school.  There are always a million and one things that have to be done before I can close out my 2nd grade classroom and send my sweet second graders on to summer break.  Elizabeth’s school usually wraps up about the same time as the public school I teach at, and it’s a bittersweet feeling to see her ending another season in her life.  I can’t believe that she will be ready for 3rd grade next year!  Gulp!  Where did the time go?  I try to treasure each moment of her childhood.  It seems to be racing by!  Another school season will come to an end for me this year as I will watch my Mom (who teaches right next door to me) retire.  I don’t think I’ve ever known a finer teacher, and I sure will miss her! 🙂  At the same time, I’m so happy that she will get to lead a life of leisure. 🙂

Although public and homeschool are ending for the summer, I am starting on a new school journey that is all on my own.  Many of you know that I will start graduate courses to get a certification added to my teaching license to teach Gifted and Talented children.  I am filled with excitement about starting this year long course, but at the same time, I am also a little nervous.  Doubts race through my mind as I wonder how graduate work, homeschooling, teaching public school, working at the market, working at the farm, and being the farmer’s wife will all fit together.  I keep reminding myself to breathe and take one day at a time.  God has a plan and it will all work out.  

So, if you don’t hear from me for awhile, just know that I’m still here.  🙂  Thank goodness for a wonderful family and friends support system!  I’m looking forward to a wonderful Spring, and right now, I’m just enjoying the calm before the storm.  🙂 🙂 🙂

Life In Mayberry

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Lately, one of my families favorite things to do at lunchtime has been to bring our plates to the couch, turn on the computer, and watch an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show”.  It makes a nice break in the day to step back in time and watch the antics of Andy, Barney, Aunt Bea, and Opie.  On one occasion several years ago, my Uncle Tim, who lives in the big city of Seattle, made the comment that we “lived in Mayberry”.  He meant it jokingly, but, all the same, I smiled.  I liked the comparison very much.  Over the years, I’ve let that comment roll around in my brain, thinking about why it pleased me so much.  Here’s what I’ve finally decided about that.

Family was important in Mayberry.  Just as it is in my home today, the family is valued.  Each family member had a role to play and took their job seriously.  Aunt Bea always had a delicious meal on the table, took time to can and preserve food for the family (remember the pickle episode?!), and kept the house looking great.  Andy was the “breadwinner” in the family and faithfully went to work each day.  He also took time aside from his work to spend with Aunt Bea and Opie, often singing a gospel song or two on the porch in the evening while they sat around and visited.  Opie, who occasionally got into trouble, tried his best to honor his father and Aunt Bea’s wishes and to be respectful to others.  Am I saying here that I think all families should be like this with Mom staying at home and Dad going to work?  No. My family certainly isn’t like that.  What I am saying is that I think each member of a family should do their best to fulfill whatever role they have and think about the ways that they can bless their family through this role.  Whether it’s bringing home a paycheck, folding a basket of laundry, or picking up toys in the living room, every person in a family can make a proud contribution to the well being of the entire household.  

Another thing I like about Mayberry is the strong sense of community.  Mayberry was obviously a small town, probably about the same size as Calico Rock is today.  Manners were thought of when folks interacted with each other.  The characters on the show could walk into almost any business in town and meet someone they knew.  Sounds familiar to me!  Not everyone in the town of Mayberry always got along, but the citizens of Mayberry tried their best to settle things in a civil and respectable way.  Christian values were upheld and adults in positions of authority, such as law enforcement, city government, teachers, pastors, etc. were respected and were honorable people.  Neighbors took time to get to know each other and help each other out.  That certainly makes me think of the area where I live.  

Every episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” has a lesson.  Life is truly like that.  There are lessons that we can learn every day, if we stop and take the time to see them.  When I watch the show, I am reminded to stop and think about my neighbor, to remember the difference between right and wrong, and to unplug.  Now, I know that they weren’t invented then, but no one in Mayberry has anything “techy”.  Andy never stops a face to face conversation to take a call on his cell phone, Aunt Bea doesn’t check her Facebook page before dinner, and Opie doesn’t kick back playing on his i-Pad mini.  Do I think there’s anything wrong with being “techy”?  Of course not. I’m writing a blog on a social media network for Pete’s sake!   However, I have noticed how much all of our convenient little “techy” devices can take our attention away from the real world.  Real world?  You know, the other people in the room that are so distracting when we’re trying to blog, or update our status, or send out a tweet?  

The thing is….those people are what’s real.  They are what’s right now.  It is so easy to get sucked into whatever device we have, that the minutes, and sometimes even the hours, slip away unnoticed.  Once those minutes and hours are gone, they are gone forever.  Unlike old episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show”, we won’t get a second chance to see them again.  Think about that.  It’s important.  At the end of your life, do you want to look back and remember all the time you spend blogging, or on Facebook, or do you want to be able to look back and remember all the time you spent actually doing something face to face with your family and friends?  

Now, I know that Mayberry is not a real place and that “The Andy Griffith Show” is completely fictional.  Even so, it still makes me smile to think about “living in Mayberry”.  With family, a caring community, and spending some time being unplugged,  I think that life in Mayberry is just about as good as it gets.

How about you?  Do you live “in Mayberry”?  Do you ever watch “The Andy Griffith Show”?  If so, what does it mean to you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Christmas Eve at Mount Zion

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As the snow has been softly falling outside, I’ve been sitting in my warm and cozy house, taking some trips down memory lane.  Memory lane is always a beautiful place to walk.  It looks even prettier covered with snow.  Sit down, snuggle in, and walk with me awhile.  I’d like to share one of my most treasured Christmas memories with you today. 

This Christmas memory takes place long ago at a little, snow-covered, one-room, white church called Mount Zion.  This little church is located in the Kansas countryside and will always hold a special place in my heart.  Some part of my family has been in attendance there since it was built in the 1800s.  One of my great-great grandfathers even donated the land the church sits on.  So it was not surprising, that on Christmas Eve in 1986, I found myself dressed in my fanciest dress (mother had worked all week to sew it), standing on the stage, and getting ready to sing in front of an audience for the first time ever.  Daddy (a former professional musician) had worked with me all month teaching me the words to, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.  He was accompanying me on the guitar (and helping just a little with the singing).  

All went very well with the performance until Daddy accidentally played the wrong chord on the guitar, at which point, I reached over and lightly bonked him on the head.  The whole church burst into laughter, Dad gave me the evil eye, and, as they say, “the show went on”!

My first time singing in front of an audience with Dad!

 

After Dad and I sang, several others in our community sang and played special Christmas songs.  One of the grown-ups always helped us kids to put on a Christmas play (that usually involved lots of Bible character costumes created with bathrobes and towels), which was a big hit with everyone.  

Then, of course, there was the Christmas tree.  As a child, the church Christmas tree stands out magically in my memory.  It was always a real tree from someone’s farm, and it was decorated to the hilt.  Popcorn chains, paper plate angels, paper chains, and all sorts of homemade ornaments decorated the beautiful tree.  In my memory, it took up nearly half the small stage at the front of the church.  

After the singing, there was a sound of heavy boots at the door, and to our delight, Santa Claus himself would walk in!  He’d walk right up to the front of the church with a large bag filled with toys.  There was a toy for each child in the church.  I was always amazed that he knew just what all of the kids wanted!

Sitting on Santa’s lap. Note the beautiful tree and ornaments in the background.

 

At the end of the night, as we got ready to leave, church ladies stood by the door to tell you goodbye.  Every family got a big brown paper sack filled to the brim with oranges, apples, and hard Christmas candy.  A special lady named Charlotte always made each family in the church an ornament out of plastic canvas.  Charlotte’s ornaments still hang on my tree today.

An ornament from Charlotte

 

Christmas at Mount Zion is seared in my memory as the epitome of Christmas magic.  Dad says that it was exactly the same when he was a little boy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my grandparents and great-grandparents didn’t have similar memories of Christmas there.  A couple of years ago, I got the chance to stop back by my childhood church.  It looks much the same, except a large building has been added out back.  I’m sure the Christmas services there are still as special as they used to be.  

Dad, Elizabeth, and I at Mount Zion

Sick & Thankful

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Old man winter is on his way.  With the fall weather changing from cold to warm, and back again, my body doesn’t know quite what to think.  RIght now it’s decided to cough, sneeze, and make it hard for me to breath.  This is a little inconvenient, but while I was lying awake coughing about 2:30 last night, I realized something.  I realized, that when I’m sick, in a funny way, I appreciate things a whole lot more.

For instance, when I’m well, I never seem to notice just how wonderful it feels to turn my pillow over and find a nice, cool, spot on my velvety-soft, worn, flannel pillowcase.  I never seem to think about how good it is to draw a clear breath of air without having the urge to cough or hear a rasping breath.  I never notice how truly blissful it is to soak in a hot bath, and then put on my favorite, old, flannel nightgown.  The steam from a cup of hot tea and the sweet taste of our farm honey (that I generously drizzle in my cup!) just seem a little richer when I’m sick.

Of course, after I’ve been “puny” as my grandma would say, it’s such a joyful experience to begin to feel better.  Have you ever noticed how good food tastes when you begin to get your appetite back?  It’s like everything you eat has been cooked to perfection!  When I begin to get well, I can’t help but celebrate a million little victories, like sleeping through the night, taking a walk outside, or reading aloud with a clear voice, that I wasn’t able to do while I was sick.  

Even though it’s not much fun to be sick, it sure does put things in a different perspective.  It always makes me especially grateful that I only have a cold or a virus.  There are so many people who live every day with chronic pain and illness.  Chronic pain and illness play no favorites.  They can attack both the young and old.  I am always amazed at the strength and faith of those that live with illness every day, especially those that are shut in and are unable to leave their homes.  

This time of year, there is much talk about being thankful.  We have so much to be thankful for, especially our health.  Stop for a moment today and consider what a blessing it is to be healthy.  Think about how much it means to you, when you are feeling “puny”, for someone to fix you a nourishing meal, give you a needed break-time, or just offer a few words of encouragement.  

A great way to show thankfulness this season, or any time of the year, would be to take some time to help someone that is struggling with pain or illness.  Look around you.  I bet you can find a co-worker, next door neighbor, fellow church member, or friend that could use some help.  Not sure how to go about it?  

I think the best way is one I’ve learned from my mother-in-law Beth.  Surprise attack!  Don’t ask, just do.  Step out in faith and be bold.  Many times, I have seen Beth fix a pan of cornbread and a pot of soup for someone and just drop by their house with a ready made dinner.  She’s also notorious for taking plates of cookies to people and stopping by, “just to check on them”.  I’ve been with her on several of these impromptu visits and have always been richly rewarded to see the smiles and sometimes happy tears that can be found when true friendship is shown.  

So often, when we are healthy, it is easy to forget how isolated and miserable you can feel if you are sick or in pain, especially if the illness or pain is chronic.  Let’s remember the famous words found in Matthew 7:12, “so in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” and in Matthew 19:19, “love your neighbor as yourself”.  

 

The Simple Joy of Sponge Rollers

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The last few weeks have been hectic around the farm.  It’s always a little unnerving when school starts and our household makes the change from Mom being at home, to Mom being at work.  We’ve eaten way more prepackaged food than we’d like to, stayed up just a little to late doing last minute things, and also managed to attend the county fair and a performance by the Chinese acrobats. 

This week, it seems like things have finally calmed down a little bit and we are getting into a “school year” routine.  Things are a little slower and a little simpler when we get in our groove.  Most of you know that I think the simple things in life are some of the most joyful.  Last night, some sponge rollers brought that idea back to the forefront of my thoughts. 

It really all got started because Dot is here.  Dot is my grandma and, most of the time, she lives in Kansas.  But, this weekend, my Aunt and Uncle brought her down to visit.  My little girl, Elizabeth, was beyond excited!  When Elizabeth was very small, Dot lived close by, and would spend hours watching and playing with Elizabeth while I was teaching school and Joey was working on the farm.  Dot (the queen of clean) taught Elizabeth to fold and sort laundry, dust, say the books of the New Testament, and many more things.  Needless to say, Elizabeth is completely enamored with Dot.  Elizabeth was thrilled that Dot was visiting for the weekend, and even more thrilled that Dot was going to drive over and come to our church on Sunday.

Because of these thrilling events, Elizabeth decided that she needed to have her hair rolled, so it would look extra pretty for church.  I smiled when she asked me to roll her hair and agreed that it would look beautiful.  I got down the antique cookie tin that we keep the rollers in, waited for Elizabeth to get positioned on the edge of the bed, and then began to comb. 

As I combed the long, wet, clean-smelling hair and listened to Elizabeth chatter on, I began to smile and think about how good it was to be engaged in such a simple and old-fashioned activity.  My mind wandered back through the years, and I caught glimpses of all my grandmas and great-grandmas with rollers in their hair, bustling about in their kitchens, or doing some odd bit of housework while they waited for their hair to “set”.  My memories moved on, and I saw myself as a little girl sitting very still while my mom rolled my hair.  I remembered how hard it was to sleep in the rollers, what high hopes I had that I’d look like a glamorous movie star, and how I’d taken the rollers out in the middle of the night and decided that being glamorous wasn’t worth sleeping in uncomfortable rollers. 

My mind snapped back to the present as I snapped the last roller into place.  Elizabeth ran to look in the mirror, and I thought (for the hundredth time) that little girls in sponge rollers are just adorable!  That night as we snuggled in bed reading a bed time story, I thought again just how rich and full life can be when we slow down and think about all the joys that surround us each and every day. 

We have so much to be thankful for, but it is so easy to forget that, as we get caught up in the latest “right now” project.  Stress washes over us and we forget that the good things in life are still there. All we have to do is take the time to slow down and enjoy them.  Whether it’s rolling hair, reading to your child, savoring the taste of homemade bread, or being thankful for how good your favorite chair feels when you sink down into it at the end of day, we all need to stop and remember that we are richly blessed with the simple things.

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Elizabeth and Great-Grandma Dot

A Glimpse of Market Day

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Today was market day.  Twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, we go to the local Farmer’s Market to sell our fresh vegetables, fruits, jams, jellies, and such.  Each market day is a little different, and you never know what might happen.  Here’s a glimpse into how today went.

We woke up to the alarm clock at 4:45.  Joey was already up and going, and Elizabeth and I hurried to get dressed and do our morning routine.  By 5:25, we were in the truck with aprons on (except Joey!) and ready to head to market.  

After a short 30 minute drive, we pulled into the town square at 6:00.  We got our pop- up tent put up, and unloaded tables, boxes, veggies, canned goods, our signs, and all the things we need to make a market morning run smoothly.  Then, Joey, Elizabeth and I started working as quickly as we could to get the vegetables sorted and set into boxes for display on our table.  

Around 6:30, the customers started to stop by.  Elizabeth and I waited on folks while Joey kept boxing.  The morning passed like a blur.  It wasn’t unusual to have 4 or 5 people at our table waiting to buy veggies.  We hurried to fill orders and answer questions.  

Many of the people that started out as customers have become old friends.  It is such a joy to see them each week and catch up on what’s been going on in their lives.  When we are especially busy and haven’t been able to get everything boxed and displayed, sometimes these wonderful people pitch in to fill their own orders!  This morning, I found myself handing a peck basket of okra to one of my favorite customers and telling her to fill a box with what she needed.  I jokingly told her it was pretty bad when she had to fill her own order!  We both had a laugh about that!  

Our 6 year old daughter Elizabeth also helps with customers at the market and is learning how to make change this summer.  She loves helping fill orders and working with the money.  The folks that stop by our booth are so patient and encouraging to her.    They always have a kind word or a joke to tell her.

As I said earlier, you never know what will happen at the market, and today we got a big surprise.  One of our sweet customers brought us a wonderful cookbook (which you all know I loved!) and a fabulous homemade soy candle!  She just brought them because she knew we would love them.  That really touched my heart.  Another lovely lady thoughtfully brought us an envelope with seeds that she had carefully saved from the tomatoes she had bought from us the week before.

It is such a blessing to be able to build relationships with the folks at market.  We love helping them learn about canning and preserving, growing a garden, drying herbs, and saving seeds.  It’s also a blessing to be able to learn things from our customers.  We have heard so many great gardening tips, recipes, and household ideas.  

It’s also fun to visit with the other vendors that sell at the market.  When we have a lull in the crowd, we like to slip over to another tent and spend a moment with some of the talented folks that bake, craft, and farm.  We have a really nice group of folks that sell at the market.  

The market, like any business, has it’s busy and slow times.  Of course, the end of July is a busy time with tomatoes, peppers, and all the summer veggies being in full swing.  Today went by like a blur.  We were sold out of vegetables and ready to load up by around 10:00.  We packed the truck and headed home.   

I have to admit that sometimes when the alarm goes off at 4:45 on market day, I am reluctant to get out of bed.  I think about how nice it would be to just sleep in and worry about those vegetables later.  Of course, I never do, and by the time market is over for the day, I am so glad I didn’t.  On the drive home from market, Joey and I are always so humbled and amazed at the wonderful people that we call our customers.  

Whether it’s seeing the look of delight on someones face when they spot their favorite kind of tomato, or being able to share with someone how easy it is to can green beans, or getting to hear a cherished memory of someones life on the farm, market day is so rewarding.  

I know I say it all the time, but I am so grateful that Joey and I are able to live on his family’s farm.  I am thankful for the market, for the wonderful people we meet, and for all the blessings that make up our life on the farm.  Market comes around every Wednesday and every Saturday.  Stop by and see us and get your own special glimpse of market day.

Here is a picture I took last year of our Market Day table.

 

Rendering Lard

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I rendered lard for the first time this summer.  It all started when my wonderful friend Rachel of Jersey Knoll Farms offered me a bag of fresh pork fat.  At first, I was hesitant to accept.  I had visions of spending hours over a huge cast iron kettle full of hot popping oil.  Fortunately, after a short talk with Rachel, I learned that rendering lard is easy, fairly quick, and (I think) fun!  Here’s how I did it.  (At this point, I have to throw in my standard disclaimer.  If you render lard, or think about rendering lard, and something goes horribly wrong, I am not responsible.)  Also, if pictures of pork fat bother you, you may not want to read this post.

Now, let’s get started.

First, I placed the fat into my stainless steel cooking pots.  I turned the stove on very low heat.

 

Here is a close up of what the fat looked like before I turned the stove on.

 

 

The next steps were very easy.  Keeping the heat on low, I just let the fat slowly start to melt. Every few minutes, I gave it a stir to make sure it wasn’t sticking or burning on the bottom of the pan.

You can see it is starting to turn to a liquid in this photo.

 

It cooked a little longer, melted a little more, and it looked like this.

 

Annnd…..I cooked it a little bit longer, it melted a little bit more, and it looked like this.

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You can see that by this point, the pieces that are left are pretty small.  At this stage, I could have kept cooking it down, but I since I wanted to have bright, white, clean-tasting lard, I decided to stop and drain off the liquid.  

Here is my set up for draining off the liquid.  I used a canning funnel and a wire strainer that I lined with cheesecloth.  By doing this, I was able to pour the liquid directly in the jar.

 

When I first poured the liquid in, it was a yellowish color.

 

But, when it was completely cool, the lard was a beautiful, pure, white!

 

In all, the whole process took me around two hours.

After the lard cooled completely, I put it in the refrigerator for storage.

 I have really enjoyed cooking with lard.  We fried okra and new potatoes in it, and I am looking forward to using it to make a pie crust for a blackberry pie!  The best thing is that I know I am using a product from an animal that was properly cared for, fed good food, and raised on a local farm.  It is so important to know where your food comes from.  Rendering my own lard with locally grown pork is one way I can do just that.   

A Mother’s Song

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As a little girl, I remember lying in bed early on Saturday mornings.  I’d be in that drowsy state where you’re half awake and half asleep.  The covers would be so warm and snuggly.  The beautiful rays of morning sun would be shining in through my window.  Inside the house, I’d hear the sound of the washing machine chugging away, and I’d hear Mom singing as she worked on cleaning the house. 

Singing…. At the time, I never thought much about it.  That was just the normal thing.  When mom cleaned, mom usually sang.  She didn’t just sing any old tune, but beautiful old hymns.  The song that I remember her singing most frequently is “Blessed Assurance”, especially the lines that say, “This is my story.  This is my song.  Praising my Savior, all the day long.”  

Lately, I’ve read several articles and books that have suggested that women should be purposeful in singing songs of praise and worship as they go about their daily chores. These articles and books have pointed out that singing has many benefits that I’d never even thought about.

The ideas that intrigued me most were that:

~Singing songs of praise and worship to God is a wonderful witness to other family members.

~Purposefully singing songs of praise and worship is a wonderful way to brighten your day and raise your spirits.

~When often heard, songs of praise and worship will more readily come to mind in times of worry or trouble.

~Singing songs of praise and worship helps to make even menial jobs, like doing the dishes, a fun and special time to draw closer to the Lord.  

Who would have thought that something as simple as singing a song could have such a impact in our day to day lives?

I don’t know if my Mom was purposeful in her singing, or if that was just a way for her to spend a few minutes of praise and worship with Jesus in the midst of her busy life.  Either way, it really made a difference to me.  I find myself singing her favorite lines from “Blessed Assurance” when I’m throwing in a load of laundry or doing some dusting.

Mom may not have realized it at the time, but her sweet, simple, singing during Saturday morning chores helped to start me on a precious journey with the Lord that will last through eternity.  Now that’s something to sing about!

 

 

Making Fresh Butter

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Our Jersey milk cows Star and Speck finally had their calves a few weeks ago.  Since then, we’ve been enjoying their fresh milk and cream.  Last night, we decided to use some of the cream to make some fresh butter.  If you’ve never made your own butter, it is easy to do, and tastes delicious!  Here’s how we do it.

After milking, we strain the milk and put it in the refrigerator overnight.  The cream will rise to the top of the milk jar.  Using a ladle, we scoop off the cream and put it into the churn.  You don’t have to have a churn to make butter.  You can use a mixer, or even a simple glass mason jar.  (If you use a mason jar, you will have to put a lid on the jar and shake the cream.) We prefer using a hand churn because it’s what our family has always used.

Elizabeth and her Churn

 After the cream is in the churn, we let it sit until it gets close to room temperature.  The cream turns into butter much faster if it’s a little warmer.  It won’t hurt anything if you want to churn it while it’s cold, it just won’t turn into cream until it warms up.  When my Dad was a little boy, he liked to turn the handle on the churn so much, that he’d get in some extra turns while the cream was cold, just for the fun of it!

After the cream warms up a little, churn away.  After a little bit of churning, you’ll notice golden flecks appearing in the milk.  That’s the butter!  Keep churning, but slow down a little to allow the butter to collect.  It’s almost magical to see the large golden clumps appearing in the jar!

Butter floating in the churn.

After the butter has collected, it’s time to take it out of the churn, separating it from the milk (which is now yummy buttermilk!).  We use my Great-Grandma Bessie’s wooden butter paddle to do this, but you can also use a spoon.

My Dad scooping out the butter from the churn.

After we get all the butter out of the churn, we pour the buttermilk into a pitcher and put it in the refrigerator for later use.  The next step is to wash the butter.  We pour ice water over the butter and work it through the butter using a spoon.  At first, the water is a milky color, but after several times of pouring on water, working it through, and draining it off, the water will be almost clear.  The cold water will also make your butter much harder.  Washing the buttermilk out of the butter helps it to stay fresh longer.  We also add a little salt.

When the butter is clean, the next step is to put it into a butter mold.  If you don’t have a butter mold, don’t panic.  You can also shape the butter with a spoon.  We just happen to have several butter molds that we like to use to make the butter look pretty.  The one we’re using in the photo below is a glass mold with pictures of cows.  My favorite mold is my Great Grandma Bessie’s wooden mold, which has a lovely picture of ferns on the top.

Here is what the butter looks like in the mold before we’ve smoothed down the bottom with a spoon. You have to pack it tightly so it will take the shape of the mold.

Once the butter is tightly packed in the mold, we pop it out onto the butter dish.  You can also use a plate or waxed paper. In the photo below, we only made enough butter to fill half the mold.

Pushing the butter out of the mold.

That’s all there is to it.  Once the butter is off of the mold, the only steps left are to put the lid on the butter dish, and put it in the refrigerator.

Oh yes, there is one more step…eating the delicious fresh butter!  This morning at the farm, I’m going to use some of the buttermilk to make some piping hot buttermilk pancakes.  Then, we’ll top those with some fresh butter and homemade blueberry syrup that I made with our own blueberries.  Yum!  Life on the farm is delicious!

Butter in the butter dish!

Disclaimer:  If something goes horribly wrong while you are making butter, eating butter, or thinking about making or eating butter, we are not responsible.