July 2009


We celebrated M’s third birthday this week.  We just had a small, family affair.  This was fine with M, as I think she was more concerned about the cake and presents than who was in attendance.  She and I have been discussing her cake for about a month now.  She has deliberated between a “hot-dog cake,”  a “corn cake,” an “ice-cream cake” (at least this one was doable!), and several others.  I finally convinced her to go for a carrot cake with raisins and pecans.  She was game, so the decision was made.

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I baked the cake the night before.  However, when I wound up short on carrots, and saw my surplus of zucchini, I figured, “why not?”  So, the cake turned into a carrot-zucchini cake.  I made the cream-cheese frosting that morning, and got it all iced.  Daddy came home early, so when the kids got up from their naps, we decided to have an afternoon party.  Then, we discovered a problem…I had forgotten the candles!  I had forgotten that I threw them all away after they melted during our last move.  Daddy got creative though, and we had tea-lights to the rescue!  (Does a 3-year old really care anyway?) 

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We all thought the cake was absolutely delicious!!  No doubt this cake will be added to my recipe box! 

After cake, she got to open presents. 

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Unfortunately, I am a bad influence and chew gum to keep me from eating when I shouldn't.  After our experience with JR learning to chew gum, we made a rule that you have to be 3 years old to chew gum in our house!  So, the highlight of her party was JR's gift--a pack of chewing gum!

Unfortunately, I am a bad influence and chew gum to keep me from eating when I shouldn't. After our experience with JR learning to chew gum, we made a rule that you have to be 3 years old to chew gum in our house! So, the highlight of her party was JR's gift--a pack of chewing gum!

Grandma sent her this adorable, hand-made apron.  She has wanted one for some time for when she helps me cook.  I guess I need to bake some cookies or something with her now!

Grandma sent her this adorable, hand-made apron. She has wanted one for some time for when she helps me cook. I guess I need to bake some cookies or something with her now!

I can’t believe my little girl is 3!  It really seems just yesterday I was rejoicing at her little kicks and bumbs inside my belly.  Now, to see her blossoming into a little girl, having completely left the baby stage behind, is a strange feeling when I let myself think about it.  In fact, just yesterday, she was asking me when I would teach her how to read!  I really don’t think I am ready for that yet!! 

I love you, M!

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I am thrilled to report we finally completed all 100 lessons of JR’s reading lesson book, “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.”  At times, it was monotonous and boring, other times were repititious, and yet other times were exciting.  It has been a wonderful experience for JR as a a student, and me as a teacher.  JR has dealt with important life lessons such as stick-to-it ‘iveness (is that a word?), attitude control, persistance, consequences for poor performance, and reward for hard work.  I have learned patience, to use daily consistency as a tool in teaching, and flexibility in assignments and situations.  (I still need to improve on daily lessons though, or we may have some difficulties completing everything next year!) It was a great preparation for our first official textbook-year, which will begin in the next 2 weeks. 

When we reported the great news to S last night, he was so thrilled, he decided on an impromptu ice-cream treat to celebrate.  There was just one problem, this decision was made while driving to teach a class at church.  That meant our little ice cream celebration had to take place AFTER the class.  So, there we were, sitting in Applebees (close to the church and $1.99 ice cream shooters) with 4 tired children, at 9 pm.  All that didn’t matter to JR, though.  He was so excited to have this little unexpected party, and he willingly gobbled up every bite! 

Nothing, however–not even the mile-high ice-cream mud pie I had last night–compared to the treat I received this morning.  You see I had told JR that he wouldn’t have to do any lessons for the rest of the week if he finished his book.  Yet, after breakfast this morning, I walked into our office and discovered this:

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A kodak moment if there ever was one!  M had actually pulled the Bob Books box off the shelf and was looking through them.  JR decided to read her a story.  I don’t know if he got all the words right, but, honestly, who cares?  How priceless to see that maybe, just maybe, JR has finally learned to find fun and enjoyment in reading.

It has always fascinated me how completely unique children are.  Personalities and habits differ so much, even at the infant age.   If you throw in a different genetics on top of everything else, the differences get even more interesting.  Take food habits for example.  JR and M both wanted to eat solids by 4-5 months of age.  With JR, he was eating like a pro after only 2 or 3 bites of rice cereal at his very first feeding.  M took a bit longer, but we realized it was simply because she didn’t care for rice cereal.  Once we introduced the veggies, she was an eager participant.   A seemed interested around 6 months, but had a great deal of trouble getting the hang of it.  He tended to gag a lot.  We actually gave him a break for about 2 weeks and tried again, and he has been eating ever since. 

Then came N.  N is now almost 6 1/2 months, and has not shown the least bit of interest in food.  I realize that solids at his age aren’t a necessity, but after another appt with the pediatrician really encouraging me to get him started, I agreed to try.

First bite:

"What did you just put in my mouth?!"

"What did you just put in my mouth?!"

 Bite 3:

"Would you take a hint and stop putting that stuff in my mouth?!

"Would you take a hint and stop putting that stuff in my mouth?!

 I decided to spare you photos of the next few bites, as they involved gagging and vomit….lots of vomit!  That’ll teach me to give him a bottle within 12 hours of a solids intro! (kidding)

Bite 7 or so: (I lost count with all the vomit cleanup).

"That stuff is disgusting, and I have had it!"

"That stuff is disgusting, and I have had it!"

Just for the record, while it may sound like I just fed him too much,  those 7 or so bites totaled about 1 tablespoon of rice!  So, it looks like I am going to wait a few weeks with N before trying again.  He had, by far, the most violent reaction of all our children.  Not impressed is an understatement! 

“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.  You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.  You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.  You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred.  You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.  You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.  You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.  You cannot build character and courage by taking away initiative and independence.  You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could do for themselves.”

Quote by Abraham Lincoln

This bread is the perfect all-purpose, daily use bread.  I have used it for sandwiches, french toast, egg-in-the-holes, grilled cheese, and garlic bread.  It has worked every time.  It freezes well, which is nice since the recipe makes 2 loaves, though the frozen loaf tends to be a bit more crumbly than the first, fresh loaf.   FYI, the original recipe came from http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/blog/honey-whole-wheat-bread, but I have tweaked it just a bit for our tastes. 

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6 cups whole wheat flour, divided
2 cups warm water, divided
1/2 cup honey
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. melted butter

1. Mix 3 cups of whole wheat flour with 1 ½ cups of warm water in a large glass bowl. Allow this to sit for about 30 minutes. This will break down the gluten and help the bread to rise better.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together 1/2 cup water, yeast and honey. Allow this to sit for about 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and mixture becomes bubbly.
3. Add salt, melted butter and yeast mixture to the flour and water mixture. Gradually add the remaining three cups of flour and stir well.
4. As the dough becomes harder to stir, pour it out onto a clean counter and begin to knead the dough. Add a little flour if needed to keep it from sticking. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes.
5. Place the ball of dough back into the bowl and cover it with a cloth. Allow the dough to rise for one hour, or until it has double in size.
6. Using a floured hand, pull the dough out of the bowl onto the counter. Knead for just a minute or two until the air bubbles are gone.
7. Cut the dough in half with a large sharp knife.
8. Shape each section of dough into a loaf and place them each in a buttered bread pan.  Rub coconut oil on the top to help prevent drying out.
9. Cover and allow 45 minutes to one hour to rise again.
10. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when you thump the top of it.
11. Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes, and then remove it to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Notes:  This recipe is designed for freshly milled flour.  If you use store-bought, you will need about a cup less.  To shape it, I cut it, then use my rolling pin to roll each section into a rectangle, roll it up loosely, tuck the ends, and lay it in a bread pan.

Enjoy!

Yesterday, we finally got all the pieces to our mill assembled and secured to the counter.  Although I am perfectly capable of grinding the wheat since it isn’t difficult, I am blessed to have a husband who loves to play with new toys.  He offered to do the grinding, and I happily accepted!

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Since my recipe is a whole wheat bread, I decided to use hard red wheat berries.  We happen to like the nutty, rich smell and flavor of whole wheat.  After grinding away for about 15 minutes (at a very relaxed speed), I had about 7 cups of freshly milled flour.  Then I set to mixing and baking.  A few hours later, I had 2 beautiful loaves of Honey Wheat Bread, and a house that smelled absolutely delicious!

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Stay tuned for this recipe!

I saw this video some time ago, and was blown away by the powerful meaning behind it.  I came across it again recently, and I wanted to share with you.  It is such a beautiful picture of who Christ is and what He does for us.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyheJ480LYA

A family moment captured during a rare movie night

A family moment captured during a rare movie night

Discipline.  Typically, when you hear that term, you automatically see images of punishment, time-outs, spanks, verbal reprimands, etc.  It can be such a harsh word.  Of course, any loving parent would hate such a meaning.  I have even heard it said, “We don’t discipline.”  Like most parents, I would presume, this is an issue I struggle with.  We have been counseled by those who firmly believe spanking is the only way to discipline a child, and this is typically based on the scripture verse “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”  Others have counseled along the lines of other forms of discipline.  Sometimes, this, too is based on scripture references such as “Thy rod and staff, they comfort me…”  So how can something so negative also be so positive?

If you think about it, it doesn’t have to be a harsh idea.  Even literal definitions of the word state things like “training,” “guidance,” “development,” or “instructing.”  With meanings such as these, it is easy to see how loving discipline can be.  When you look at from the perspective of self-disicpline, it is easy to see how necessary discipline is.  You can’t expect a child who has had little discipline and training at home to be self-disciplined in public, or as they mature.  

The Bible gives explicit instruction to parents to discipline. In speaking with a good friend recently on the topic of how to most appropriately discipline our children, however, she pointed out that “Even God uses different forms of discipline when training us!”  How true this is.  Sometimes, He lets us learn from our own mistakes.  Sometimes, He allows bad things to happen to change the course of our direction.  Sometimes, He may take things from us to redirect our focus.  Sometimes, He may simply make us wait, until He knows we are ready for further instuction.  The point is always the same though–to prune, train, prepare, and guide us, but the method may differ based on the circumstance. 

I have thought about this quite a bit the last few days.  I don’t know whether I have been lax in training my children, or if we are entering a new phase, but in either case, I have seen some attitudes and behaviors recently that are unacceptable in our home.  We have prayerfully sought Biblical guidance on how to best handle these situations, and I have realized that I sometimes tend to complicate the idea of discipline.  Instead of focusing so much on the method of punishment we use, I am now working on redirecting my focus to methods of training, guiding, and re-directing my children.  In the long run, it doesn’t seem to matter what method of discipline we use in different situations, rather, what matters is that we teach our children obedience, willingness, and Godly submission.

Even as simple as that idea is, though, it can seem an overwhelming responsibility.  Fortunately, God doesn’t expect us to do this parenting thing alone!  He has provided friends, family, and Scripture for counsel and guidance to help us in the journey.  He promises to give us strength in our areas of weakness, and wisdom when we need it most.  Furthemore, we must remember that our ultimate goal as parents is not to simply raise children who are obedient to us.  Rather, our desire should be children who are followers and seekeers of Christ himself, striving to dedicate their entire lives to serving.  We, in our imperfect ways, cannot possibly provide the needed training alone.  Only Jesus Christ himself could set that kind of example for our children to follow. So, if I just allow Him to provide the tools and guidance I need as a parent, do my best to live as an example for my children, then God will fill in the gaps for the sake of the children.  This certainly takes a burden of my shoulders!

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

–2 Timothy 3:1-17

We have one more check on our list of things to learn!  We have made our first cheese!  What a process it was, too. 

We were actually inspired to do so when a co-worker of S’s described his experience making cheese from store-bought, pasteurized, homogenized milk.  He had a bunch of Junkit Rennet tabs left over, and gave them to S.  We figured if he could do it with that yucky “fake” milk, surely we could do it with our raw milk.  So yesterday, we took the plunge.  Here is our experience, captured in excrutiating detail:

First, we had to slowly heat 1 gallon of milk to 68 degrees.  Then we added some organic, whole milk, live culture yogurt to “inoculate” the milk.

JR adding the yogurt

JR adding the yogurt

After stirring the yogurt into the milk, the pot was covered and set aside to acidify for about 12 hours.  After the time lapse, we dissolved 1/2 a rennet tablet in a bit of water.  Then we slowly heated the milk to 86 degrees, and mixed in the rennet solution.  We again set the pot aside, undisturbed, until it coagulated.  We tested it for a clean break at 1 hour, 1 1/2 hour, and 2 1/2 hours.  At 2 1/2 hours, it seemed to have a clean break.  We then cut the curds as instructed by the Junkit instructions.

S cutting the curds

S cutting the curds

After the curds were cut, we slowly heated the curds to 96 degrees, meanwhile stirring with my hands.  As the pot got warmer (about 15 minutes), the curds began to contract, firm up, and sink to the bottom of the resulting whey. 

Stirring the curds and whey

Stirring the curds and whey

When the temperature reached 92 degrees, we strained the whey into a large bowl.

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I then worked the collected curds on the strainer a bit to strain a bit more whey out (they were still very wet).

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After removing as much whey as possible, I mixed 2 tsps of salt into the curds, pouring out excess whey as it collected in the bowl.

This working broke the curds into a firm cottage-cheese consistency

This working broke the curds into a firm cottage-cheese consistency

During the waiting times, we had fashioned a make-shift cheese press of sorts out of a casserole dish (to collect whey), a plastic cylinder (with lid and bottom removed), a section of a clean pillow case, and a glass bowl (to fit inside the cylinder), tin can, and rubberband for the press.  Once the salt was worked into the curds, the curds were put into the cloth-lined cylinder.

Ready for pressing

Ready for pressing

 Then we assembled our press. Don’t laugh too hard.

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This was left to settle overnight (about 12 hours).  This morning, I disassembled the contraption and voila!  

Homemade Cheese!

Homemade Cheese!

The cheese roll was then rubbed with salt.  Of course, we also had to steal a little taste!  Somewhat salty, but otherwise bland–I guess that’s why aging is required.  The texture seems right though.

Rubbing the cheese in salt

Rubbing the cheese in salt

Then the cheese roll was wrapped in a clean cloth, and placed in the fridge to age.  This cloth will have to be changed daily for a while, then as needed, as the whey will continue to seep out.  In my opinion, this is the torture part.  Geepers, I have just spent well over 24 hours making cheese, and can’t eat it for at least a month!  We’ll see if we can wait that long!

Wrapped and ready to age in the fridge

Wrapped and ready to age in the fridge

So….our first cheese. I have a new respect for cheese makers!  This could be a worthwhile endeavor if I made large quantities at one time, but that is a lot of time and effort for a measly one-pound loaf of cheddar!  That I can’t even eat for a while!  Nonetheless, it was thrilling and educational to do it.  For those of you who are more experienced (Terri!!) at cheese making, I would LOVE to know anything I did wrong or any shortcuts I can use for future reference! 

Now, what to do with 2/3 of a gallon of whey?!  “Heeere, puppy, puppy!”

These days, I feel like a spectator at an event–only the event is not a sports game.  Rather it is my country as I know it, dissolving before my very eyes.  Just a year ago, I was completely ignorant and blind to what was happening.  I fully supported the governmental authorities that were in place to “protect” us (or so I believed).  Now, since our journey toward health, Biblical living, homesteading, farming, and the self-suficient life has begun, my eyes are wide opened.

I have learned that, while most government agencies might have originally been formed with our well-being in mind, they don’t necessarily have that mindset anymore.  Now, many of these agencies are backed by profit-seeking mega corporations, who have the sole mindset to make more money and gain control.  It is greed at its worst.  Some want to eliminate the small-time organic farmers.  Others want to extinguish homeschooling.  Others want to banish parental control of their children.  Many would like to banish God entirely from the nation’s history.  Don’t believe me?  Here are two websites, where you can get more information regarding many of these bills:

http://www.ftcldf.org/federal_bills.htm

http://nche.hslda.org/legislation/default.asp

Just spend a few minutes perusing these sites.  I don’t tend to be a political activist, but I do think you should be aware of what is going on.  Did you know that the US is actively seeking to sign a UN treaty regarding Children’s Rights?  If this bill were to pass into law, most parental rights as we know them could be taken away.  Our children could be required to attend public schools.  That would ultimately outlaw homeschooling.  Our children could speak disrespectfully and disobey as desired, and parents could potentially do nothing about it.  Did you know that some mega-food corporations have lobbyists aiming to shut down small farms?  That’s right.  Since most organic produce comes from those small farms, if they can make the legal red tape tight enough, it would shut down most farms.  I wouldn’t be allowed to buy or sell the food I deem healthiest for my family.  In fact, some interpretations of this bill would make it illegal for me to give, at no cost, my surplus eggs, meat, or milk from my farm to my friends and neighbors!  The government already considers raw milk to be like illegal drugs in some states.  It is considered contraband in some cases (thankfully, not mine–yet).  There is even one state, to my understanding that has tried to make it illegal to drink milk from your own cow!  It doesn’t matter that people drank raw milk for thousands of years, or that people are deemed intelligent enough to make their own decisions regarding alcohol and tobacco.  It doesn’t matter that statistics show that not a single person has gotten sick from raw colostrum, and only a limited few from raw milk.  Pastuerized and homogenized products, on the other hand, sicken many people every year.  These mega-dairies whose pocket-books would be affected have convinced uneducated government agencies that raw milk is so bad for the public health that it needs to be outlawed completely.  As if that wasn’t enough, they want to control your farm too.  There is currently a bill in the works known as NAIS which, simply stated, controls all livestock in America.  It would require anyone who owns livestock to register their property with the government, microchip and ID EVERY livestock animal on their property, and report all livestock births and deaths within 48 hours.  Intersestingly, exceptions for mega-farms are in the bill.  For example, mega-beef ranches or chicken or egg producers only have to register 1 ID for every several thousand animals.  The expense involved in registering every animal on a small farm would essentially drive farmers and ranchers out of business.  At this point, most states still consider it voluntary, however, some officials have already let it be known that after all the kinks are worked out, it will become mandatory.   As we have educated ourselves on rainwater collection, we learned that some states have decided that the STATE owns the rain, and therefore have made it illegal to collect rain! 

This has been weighing heavily on my mind today, as I have struggled to come up with a new plan for acquiring our raw milk and dairy products.  The person running our co-op has decided to go for-profit, and has more than doubled the price of what I would pay to get it directly from the farm.  As a result, I spent half my morning on the phone learning the law to see what I could do to stay within the bounds of the law and still give my family the healthy nourishment they need.  One person gave me some legal advice that would require I be dishonest.  I told him I could not do that, as it was against my Biblical values.  It is just so sad that it has come to this.

As an American citizen, it is frustrating and even frightening to watch this control being implemented.  As a military wife, it is frustrating that my husband spends his entire day dedicated to protecting this country and its constitution, which the federal government seems to twist and trample on every time we turn around.  As a Christian, it is disheartning to see God being so neglected and abandoned by our nation, yet it is simultaneously exciting to watch prophecy being fulfilled more every day.  From a Biblical perspective, it is fascinating.  If you are Christian, you are likely very familiar with the Mark.  Did you know there is a company, called the Verichip Corporation (you can google it), that developed a human microchip several years ago?  They have already used them in children (as a locator), in elderly patients with Alzheimers (to help doctors in an emergency), and, in other countries, it has even been used as a pre-payment credit record of sorts (to prevent money and ID theft).  Are you interested in where they insert this chip?  For now, people are being given a choice, but the most popular (due to ease of scanning) is the upper right arm or right hand.   Despite the emotions at play, though, I know I can rest confident in a supreme God who is ultimately in control of even our government.  As long as I am seeking His will for myself and my family, I can have faith that He will continue to provide, and to open doors to help me do as He instructs. 

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

–Ephesians 1: 18-23

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