Musings from the Threshold

Category Archives: Activities

October 27, 2011

The garden is almost done for the year. Last week we gathered a large harvest before the first freeze of the year.

The Blessings and I also spent about an hour covering tomato and pepper plants with sheets before that first freeze to try to protect them and give them a bit more time to mature the fruit they’ve been working so hard to produce since the intense heat cooled. What you see on that plate was the extent of our tomato harvest to the date of the picture, less three tomatoes. Impressive for the almost 50 tomato plants we planted in the spring, eh? Hot hot summer makes gardening interesting, anyway!

The long skinny peppers are Holy Moles (holey moleys). This is the second year we’ve grown them. They are prolific producers with varying degrees of heat. The first year, they were quite mild, while this year they packed a bit of a punch. I found this out after I’d taken them to fellowship lunch along with miscellaneus bell/banana peppers and assured everyone that I had only brought sweet peppers. Or not…
I canned five pints of Holy Moles (sliced) and a couple pints of banana peppers (a portion of this batch), but I haven’t gotten a picture of their loveliness yet.

Tonight after we got home from town, we did another pre-frost harvest, as it’s supposed to get down to 31. Here’s what Jonathan and the older Blessings gathered while I got Andrew ready for bed:

The tomatoes made a bit of progress in the mild week+ after the first freeze; hopefully these will ripen nicely inside.
The pitiful watermelons didn’t have time to mature, yet this is the best success we’ve had yet with watermelons. Maybe next year we’ll grow some that we, instead of the chickens, eat.

A couple of the little butternuts broke off at the stem and were cooked tonight… gorgeous, aren’t they?

What a Weekend!

Friday afternoon found us at the home of some new friends, for an enjoyable visit and (hopefully) an intake of the chicken pox. Our older Blessings have been exposed multiple times and have not yet broken out in the pox, but I keep trying whenever the opportunity arises. That doesn’t seem to be very often; Stephen had not been exposed previously in his four+ years. We shall see what the next few weeks bring.

Saturday afternoon, we had a wind turbine raising, complete with chili supper. Dad and Mom Smith joined us, as did James, Wendy, and Shay. We’re thankful for family help! I took scads of pictures:

We were gifted with some venison on Sunday evening, so Jonathan left our weekly pancake night to go pick it up, then spent quite a while removing the meat from the bones. I roasted the bones and have had bone broth simmering all day, about which I’m excited. I’m not certain yet how we will be processing the meat, but we are thrilled to have about thirty-five pounds of venison to deal with!

State Fair Reflections – Through the Years

Our camera went kaput at the end of August and revived a few weeks later, so we were without it during the State Fair. Though I missed having the camera, I can see how its absence allowed me to relish our Fair experience in a different way. I wonder if I could paint pictures for you with words instead…

But first some memories, because the Kansas State Fair has seemed a magical place to me for as long as I can remember attending.

When I was in Jr. High and High School, the Kansas Bible Camp board meeting was often held during a Fair weekend and I have memories of exploring it various times with my brother Eric, playing carnival games, buying trinkets and Fair Food. For years, my front license plate was one from an airbrush booth at the Fair… adorned with a pig and my name.

A highlight from a later board meeting weekend was one of the “older” guys at the chapel taking a couple of us youngsters to the fair one evening. It was me and this guy from camp that often irritated me, but we had a fun time with Jase that night. The lights, sounds, and smells of the Fair that night still stick with me. We discovered we were both taking French in school and enjoyed comparing vocabulary. Little did I know it was my first visit to the Fair with the love of my life.

My fourth year of college, I came home in September just to share the Fair with my friends, especially this certain fellow who still could get under my skin, but who seemed to have become much nicer over the years. We weren’t “official” yet, but the magic of the Fair was extra special that year.

(Bob, Jo, and that guy, Sept. 94)

And by the time the next Fair rolled around, we were weeks away from our wedding!

Time’s up…

Anniversary Getaway

Jonathan and I enjoyed camping out at Kanopolis last weekend for our anniversary.

The view from our tent Saturday morning – gorgeous!

After breakfast, we drove around the lake and checked out campgrounds and various areas, scouting for future trips with the family. We saw quite a few horsebackriders, as there was a judged trailride in progress (we had never heard of such a thing).

Then we headed to the Horsethief Canyon area and hiked for a couple of hours. I was (as you will see) thrilled that our camera has started working again.

Some “boring” Kansas topography:

(Note: I have a strong affinity for the areas of Kansas in which you can see for miles over field after field, but when I venture out of the immediate area in which we live, I often find myself amused by the plethora of comments I have heard over the years about how boring Kansas is.)

My love:

An interesting obstruction on the trail:

We noticed a dam on the way back; the beavers are certainly at work at Lake Kanopolis:

Fall is starting to make itself known:

With end-of-summer loveliness still hanging on:

A couple of interesting critters (I’m skipping the shot of the colony of ants swarming a beetle… aren’t I nice?):

At one point, we went off the trail in an effort to avoid poison ivy, and spent about 30 minutes walking up and down hills through yucca, berry thorns, etc. It definitely made it more of an adventure!

After returning to the trail, we climbed up into a little cave, near the base of which I found someone had carved our initials for us:

There were a surprising number of lightening-struck trees, but this was the most unique looking:

Almost back to the trailhead:

After our hike, we had a lovely lunch overlooking the lake, which is lower than usual, but not nearly as dry as areas closer to home:

It was a very nice time being together. Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

Here’s the Thing…

We have been working on getting some steady forward motion in our schooling. The State Fair put a bit of a kink in our efforts, but this week we are getting down to business again. I was feeling extremely frustrated and overwhelmed this morning, at which point I generally start thinking we need to switch this or that about what we are doing for school. Or that I am just a failure as a home schooling mom. I called Jonathan in anguish and told him all the things I needed him to tell me. In detail. Things like: It’s only the second day back at working on a new daily routine, and I shouldn’t expect everything to be perfect from the start; it’s more about being consistant than about having the “perfect” system/curriculum/schedule; really, it WILL be okay. And so on. He’s so patient with me.

Continuing to think and pray after talking with Jonathan, I was convinced even more that what we truly need is to reduce distractions and Just Do It. Every weekday, unless there is a true emergency. Yes, educating at home is wonderful because there are so many opportunities for learning outside of book work. But, if my children are not able to keep their checkbooks balanced because we were too busy with other fun learning experiences, then I will have not done my job.

So, after chatting with the principal upon his arrival home from work, here’s the plan: School is in session every Monday – Friday of every week for at least the next month, so that we can truly get a routine established. That means grocery shopping, library trips, etc. have to happen evenings/weekends. That means yard jobs for the boys have to be done after school work is finished for the day. Until the apples come in and we go crazy with apples for a few days, we are going to be being very intentional and focused about getting a good groove established. And after apples, it’s back to business.

Hopefully, as time goes by, we will be able to be more flexible again. But we’ve had too much flex for too long, and it’s time to get busy!

A New Habit

Tap Tap Tap… is anyone still out there?

If only you could read the blog posts that happen in my head…

But you can’t, so I’d best get back to typing them out.

So, the new habit I’m committing to is 15 minutes a weekday to blog whatever I manage to spit out in that time.

I’m crazy-far behind.

The Kansas State Fair started last Friday, and it we spent eight hours walking around the Fair. Get in before 11 on the first day = free. Ten people families are all about free. It was such a joy to be at the Fair again. It is something that I keenly missed each September we were away, and most of our Blessings had no memories of it. I believe I wore a goofy grin the better part of those eight hours.

We went again Monday afternoon (Dollar Day) with Dad and Mom Smith and Grandma Hall. Not as long a visit, but it was fun and memorable. Midway rides were 1 ticket per ride, so the Blessings each got to pick a ride. Tight budgets make every treat sweeter. I rode the ferris wheel with Ellie, Josiah, Kate, and Grace, and it was a delight to see their varied reactions. Kate = giggles of joy! Davey and Barak rode the Starship, the one where it spins fast enough to stick you to the wall. I also rode Stephen’s ride with him, one of the little roller coasters – he loved it.

Jonathan and I will be working the Sterling Alumni booth tomorrow, and will get to have a bit of a date night afterwards. Davey and Barak have been working at the Dairy Bar during the Fair, which is good experience for them, and they’re looking forward to the paycheck.

Jonathan just started back to work this Wednesday after three weeks unpaid leave due to severe tendonitis. He is seeing a new chiropractor now and we are encouraged about the results. In the meantime, our Heavenly Father has been providing for us wonderfully through His “hands and feet.”

I’ve now been blessed to attend three births as the apprentice of two dear midwives from whom I am learning a great deal. I’m also learning from the mamas/families/babies. This apprenticeship seems to be working well for our family at this time, for which I am deeply thankful. I am without-words-thankful for Jonathan’s total support of me in pursuing this at this time. I am beyond blessed.

We put up almost 3 bushels of peaches last month, mostly just sliced peaches, but quite a few pints of peach butter, Earl Grey peach preserves, and a batch of “plain” peach preserves that turned out to be peach topping because I didn’t cook it long enough (it’s fabulous on waffles/pancakes).

My online timer seems to be malfunctioning, so I think I’ve snuck in more than my 15 minutes. (sneaky chuckle) Off to bed!

Family Demolition Project

And no, I don’t mean demolishing families!

The first significant rain in our area for well over a month arrived on August 3, and with it came winds that were fiercer than I, in my rain-induced euphoria, realized. Two buildings at Jonathan’s work were destroyed by the winds, and the insurance assessor came out and ruled them a total loss, which meant that Sturdi-Bilt could not salvage any of the materials.

But guess who could??

So yesterday evening, the Blessings and I met Jonathan at work and J and the older boys proceeded to disassemble the buildings, which were three-sided shelters intended for animals. There were two large piles that had been gathered, and I unfortunately didn’t get a demonstrative “before” shot:

Jonathan, Davey, Barak, and Josiah did almost all the hard labor, with Stephen and I carrying the occasional board.

Most of the time, the rest of us sat around watching the piles of metal siding and boards get taller.

Tonight the fellas picked up the materials we were bringing home (we sold the metal siding last night to a guy who came to look at storage barns). We’re thankful for a nice pile of 2x4s, 2x6s, etc. Way to go, guys!

Time for a This-and-That

House stuff – we’re making progress! The main living areas are pretty much settled, except the library, which needs a ton of work (floor patched so that we can put up bookcases in a currently unusable corner, lots of books to unpack, etc). We are loving our expanded space, and are so thankful. Really, truly, I will get more pictures posted soon.

The garden is coming along. Slower than we’d like, but the ground is ready for planting now, so once the fence is complete, we can get some goodies growing. I did get peas planted this last week, and we lined up tomato cages along the row to protect them from the chickens. The chickens are the reason we need the fence; they adore scratching up seeds that I have planted. For instance, this afternoon I went out and planted some morning glories at the base of the windmill. I had more seeds than I could use there, so I went to the other side of the house, planted some near the garden, and watered them. When I got back to water the seeds by the windmill, the chickens had already decimated the area. Perhaps some will come up despite them. But you can see why we don’t want to plant the garden until it is fenced!

We will also be planting some things out in the yard, as the actual garden area is pretty small. Tomatoes and peppers will be in cages, and we hope to have our winter squash fenced in another area of the yard. Summer squash might fit in the main garden, but we’ll see.

Settling in to the neighborhood is a fun experience. Our closest neighbor, Bethany, has been a friend of ours for almost four years now and helped lead us to this house. She lives with her aunt, who is super sweet and has come over a couple of times to visit. Another aunt and uncle live on the other side of Bethany, and came to meet us/bring us a meal soon after we moved in. We’re looking forward to getting to know more folks in the immediate area as time goes by.

We are out in the country in between a tiny town and a shopping/business area, and are about 15 minutes from Hutchinson. It has much more of a “country” feel than where we used to live, and at the same time is closer to town. It is also closer to work for Jonathan, who is working for a company in the aforementioned shopping/business area that builds storage buildings/barns. What a blessing to be only a few minutes from work! He is working long hard days, and is adjusting to working for someone else again after almost 6 years of being self employed. I’m so thankful for his hard work and diligence.

It has been a blessing to be back fellowshipping with folks who are dear to us and who have known us most of our lives. There are actually three meetings in Hutch where we might have landed, each of which has many folks who meet the above description, but we feel that we have “landed” where we should be.

We had an educational and fun experience yesterday. A small town nearby has a monthly “poultry sale,” and we are eager to get some guineas to eat our ticks, so we headed out there yesterday. Many of the sellers and buyers are Amish or Mennonite, so there were many tractors pulling truck-bed trailers or horse trailers behind them (these are locally considered an acceptable alternative to a buggy or car for family transportation). There were rows of animals in small cages in the sale area, and we learned that it was an auction, not the type of seller-to-buyer type sale we were expecting. We filled out our registration, got our number, and set out to learn the ropes.

The auctioneer moved up and down the rows of animals and other merchandise, and folks would bid on each item in turn. There were lots of poultry – chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guineas, peacocks – of varying ages. There were eggs for hatching and eggs for eating. Also for sale were an interesting variety of other animals and merchandise – goats, sheep, horses, ponies, cages of all sizes, buckets, fencing, even a hammock.

We had no idea what it would be like; we forgot the cage we were going to bring for transport; and the poultry seemed to go for a good bit more than we expected. Perhaps we were just being cheap, but we decided to mostly observe. Jonathan did bid on some guineas, but other folks though they were more dear than he did. Adding interest to the day were the 30-50 mph winds, which sent some of the Blessings back to the van to wait after walking around a bit. Over all, it was a very interesting and fun learning experience. We’re certainly planning on going again.

On a personal note, my weight-loss efforts have been greatly abetted by a great website, When I started with them on 3/26, I had gotten down to 8 pounds under my pre-pregnancy (with Andrew) weight. I’ve taken off an additional 13ish pounds as of yesterday’s weigh-in. SP is totally free, has tons of helpful tools, and it is helping me make lifestyle changes, not just diet. I think the biggest impact has been from tracking every thing I eat and exercising more, and their tools have been a tremendous help in that. It also is a terrific encouragement that two dear Missouri friends are also on sparkpeople and inspire and encourage me.

By way of disclaimer, sparkpeople does not “allow” nursing moms to use the site, and, at the risk of the SP police coming after me, I will admit that I skipped that box when I registered. They want to avoid promoting weight loss at cost to babies, and I appreciate that! Not all moms are well enough educated nutritionally to be trying to lose weight while nursing a baby. I didn’t sign up with them until Andrew was almost 11 months old and eating solids in addition to nursing. I also aim for the upper end of my “calorie range” to insure that I’m getting enough. If I’m hungry, I eat. I am motivated by tracking my food to eat stuff that is good for us, instead of just filling. That’s how I’m making it work for me and Andrew. I think I’m honestly giving him much better nutrition now than I was before I started SP, when I was still eating way too much junk. Also, I will not eat fake “low fat” food. If the real thing is worth the calories, I eat it. If not, I don’t. (*steps away from her “fake food” soapbox before she gets wound up). I don’t want to encourage moms toward weight loss that in a way that is going to cost their precious babies the nutrition they need. Nourishing babies with good quality milk is soooo much more important than losing weight.

While I’m sure I’m leaving out many things that have been on my mental blog-about list, this hopefully gives you a little taste of our “new” life. No pictures, but they’re coming!

Multitude Monday

Finally sitting down to scratch out thanks (Gifts #376-436) with:
The Kansas wind in my hair and
The chatter of a myriad of birds around me
“Interruptions” from dog and dear daughter
Sunshine and shade
Cardboard and tape to shelter our stuff
Overabundance and the revelation of need for still more purging
Friends and family to help pack/load
The early discovery of a purse left behind
Mom S’s gracious retrieval of said purse
Returning from truck pick-up to find a clean and packed kitchen
Hard-working Blessings, both ours and others’
Last night there and first night here – in my own bed
Safety and speed for our caravan of moving trucks and personal vans
The absence of dog vomit on a 10 hour drive
Safe transport of (and subsequent egg laying from) our chickens
Blue skies and fluffy clouds on unloading day
Friends, both old and new, to help us unload
The watchful eyes of my husband, being sure I don’t hurt my back
Visit from extended family (with pizza!) our first evening here
An array of new plant to learn about/care for
Fruit trees/bushes
Anticipation of harvesting the fruit
A beautiful rental property
A house with lots of room
Closets with shelves
J taking care of essentials before returning to Missouri
Family picnic and walk
The discovery of sand hill plums
The steadfastness of my man in returning to MO to finish work for Lowe’s and on the house
Sacrificial love from Tina and Sue in cleaning up my homemaking/cleaning failures
That those precious ladies still love me!
A week here focused on unpacking/settling
Kitchen floor found
Internet connected
Several days without distraction
Getting back to serious about losing weight and getting stronger
Companions on my health journey (made close due to the wonder of internet)
Inspiration from a hard-working friend devoted to getting healthier
Strong backs to fill in for my weak one
Visits from friends
Welcome from new neighbors (and food!)
Jehovah-Jireh – He does provide!
Perfectly timed (see above) visit and ride to town from Cheryl
Walks with my Blessings
Their growing appreciation for Kansas beauty
Trip to a “swap” for reconnecting with friends
And afternoon with the Asberrys
Tears of joy over hearing our children laugh and play together
Years of longing coming to fulfillment
The safe return of my man
Not sleeping alone
Walking/talking/planning around the property together
Common goals and interests
A great exercise-walk in the wind of a coming storm
Watching the storm system develop from miles away
The cats recovered and brought to our new home
Fellowship with friends at chapel
Good food deals @ Aldi’s
A long Sunday afternoon nap
Sounds of my man working
A quiet inner call to count gifts