Musings from the Threshold

Category Archives: Homestead

Apple day

We’ve been busy today taking care of various projects around the house. It’s the first weekday the Blessings have had off school since mid-September, and they’ve been a big help.

We worked on getting the venison we were given earlier this week in the freezer at last. We were given one rear haunch and two front haunches, mostly clean. Jonathan boned and cleaned it up some more, then we roasted it. The boys and I got a good bit of it trimmed and pulled/shredded this morning, and when I realized I was wearing out with quite a bit of meat left and other projects still to do, we went ahead and got it all in the freezer… some ready to pull and some still in need of trimming. Whew.

The Blessings put the winter squash we gathered last night onto a shelf in the basement, and did some cleaning around the house in preparation for the arrival of our apples. Because today is apple pickup! I headed out at lunchtime to pick up the six bushels we’d ordered, and threw in an extra 1/4 bushel of a type we hadn’t tried before while I was there. We will get serious about putting them up next week, as we have chiropractic appointments this afternoon and a busy day tomorrow. I’m so excited about canned apples, applesauce, and applebutter, and I think we’ll try dehydrating some as well. Any favorite recipes you’d like to share??

We listened to the Statler brothers through a good bit of the day as we worked (that 30 years 3 CD collection lasts through a lot of projects!). Love the Statlers! My friends the Youngs introduced me to them when I was in high school, and I was thrilled that I got the bonus of marrying into a family that appreciated them as well.

I love to listen to the Statlers sing How Great Thou Art. I got all thrilled and throat-catchy today thinking on
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
and there proclaim (for eternity!!), my God, how great Thou art!

So, here’s a treat for you (you’ll have to follow the links because WP is not letting me embed them, for some reason)…
The Statlers singing How Great Thou Art in 1971 on a Johnny Cash special
And a more recent version (looks like it’s from The Statler Brothers Show)

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!

Gifts abounding

Gifts #501 – 531
Seeds in the ground at last
The contagious love of planting
Unexpected opportunity
A full-time job for J
Budgeting potentialities and challenges
My wind chimes singing steadily on the front porch
Hard working man
Soul satisfaction
A friend and neighbor with whom to walk
Garden fencing beginning
Tomato cages
A walk to the mailbox with my Doodlebug
Cardinal singing
First poultry sale
Crazy wind
Stomach yuck
Work day at KBC
Our crazy chicken that eat the seeds I plant but lay such lovely eggs
Two hidden egg stashes found
Working stove after a month of learning contentment without one
Three days of remembering, “A year ago at this time…” leading up to a
One year old birthday boy – a whole year with our precious little man
Him sharing a birthday with a May Day miracle girl
Packages from far away
Hearts that are close over the miles
Hearing word of justice served from my Mama, the one who called me to tell me to turn on my tv that awful sunny September morning almost a decade ago
The reminder that I have earned my place – an eternity separated from my Creator
God’s grace – redeeming, drawing, saving grace
Love beyond my grasp
A friend who cares to call and check on us in our sickies
Finished garden fence

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!

Another Sort of Garden Work

Today, we did a little work in the front “flower garden.” That gets quotation marks because, since we moved here, we have seen very few flowers in the raised bed out front. However, my assumption has always been that there were probably bulbs and such that were deep under the soil and needed to be dug up and replanted. That job has been on my “want to” list since we moved here, but it’s finally made it to the “to do” list.
We got started today on a very small section of the flower garden because I wanted to plant some mums. I pulled out the weeds (also known as all existing fauna/flora) from an area about 18″ x 5′, then Jonathan dug up the top 8 inches or so:

My helpers and I started working or way through the soil Jonathan had dug up, pulling out weed roots and searching for treasure. The definition of treasure varied according to the goals of the worker… Ellie and Stephen were mostly searching for worms for fishing bait (but willingly picked out bulbs as well); Katie and I were more focused on finding bulbs and such:

Once we had sifted through the soil, we replaced it and planted a few mums. Jonathan got a great deal on these and they haven’t even opened yet. I had always thought that mums were annuals, but they’re perennials. Neat!

And from that 18″ x 5′ area, we gathered all this treasure!

As you can see, we’ve only conquered a very small portion of the raised bed area, but the treasure we found makes me even more motivated to clear it out and replant!


Well, we’ve been super busy the last couple of weeks… busy getting over a nasty virus that we acquired somewhere and unwittingly passed on to an unfortunately large number of people while we were at Ozark Family Camp. Ellie got pneumonia, and we had mulitple ear infections as a side benefit of this beauty. All 10 of us got it to one degree or another, and a couple are still pretty puny. So, that’s taken a bulk of my energy recently, and I haven’t gotten to the many update posts that I’d like to write sometime. But we’re on our way out of it!

A few bits of other recent news:

Today is my fourth day in my Shampoo Free experience. I’m having a bit of a “transition” issue, but not bad. I’ll be posting more about it; this is just a teaser. Follow the link above if you’re curious, and if you have thoughts on going “shampoo free,” I’d love to read them.

We did our first bit of canning today! I was amazed at how much the tomatoes cooked down in the method we used, but it was relatively easy and I hear it gets great results. Jonathan and I blanched the tomatoes, the big boys peeled and diced, Jonathan and I did the actually canning.Red, purple, and orange tomatoes. The partially filled jar will just go in the fridge when it cools. Our purples aren’t doing great this year for some reason, so we didn’t have many. On the counter behind the jars are some not-quite-ripe goodies.

I’ve been working on updating my photo blog… I was almost two months behind, but have made some catch-up progress in the last week – up to July 8th right now. And speaking of blogging, I’m getting ready to move to WordPress. Not quite ready, but getting closer. That also has taken up some of my available computer time. I’ll let you know the new place is all ready for visitors.

Saturday Garden Work

Saturday found us back out in the garden, and once again Jonathan and the Blessings acomplished a great deal (pictures below). We have also revised our garden plans for this year a bit.

Midway through Friday’s garden labors, Jonathan remarked that he was realizing that a gardening method like we are implementing this year is really best if it’s built a bit at a time. I smiled and agreed. Then we went back into planning mode.

Our garden plot is 50′ x 40′, or about 2000 square feet. In our original plan, we actually underestimated the size at 50′ x 30′ (1500 sq ft). We had planned 14′ long beds with a 2′ walking path down the middle, as well as 18″ paths between the beds. Like so:

We haven’t finished our revisions to the garden plan, but we have pretty much decided that we’re not going to lay out all the beds in the second half of the garden this year. We extended the beds on the house side of the garden to about 18 1/2′, and plan to do at least two beds on the chicken coop side (for our corn). We still need to decide how we’ll handle our winter squash (pie pumpkins, butternut, and spaghetti squash), potatoes, and melons, which will all also be on the coop side. So, stay tuned!

And now, pictures of Saturday’s progress:
Kate, Ellie, and Barak on their way back for more mulch
Davey and Grace bringing over a wheelbarrow, while Jonathan lines up the next path
Josiah and Davey loading mulch
This poor pestered hen was again seeking shelter in the garden… this time, she jumped up behind me on my chair
The garden after Saturday’s work
The mulch pile after Saturday’s work
And a seedling update:
The two rows on the left are peppers, which hadn’t sprouted yet. The four on the right are tomatoes.

This year’s garden

I mentioned in a recent This and That post that we had most of our garden planning done and were looking forward to getting started. Well, we finally had the mulch for our beds delivered today! Jonathan and the Blessings put in a ton of work this afternoon/early evening and got quite a bit done.

Prior to today, we got all the old stuff (cardboard, rocks, stakes, etc) out of the garden; Jonathan mowed it all flat; and the boys and Jonathan teamed up to spread a layer of fertilizer (aka chicken manure) around the garden area.

Today, the first layer down was the paper. It’s just plain brown builders’ paper and will serve to help smother the weeds. Newsprint was another option, but between the fact that we don’t subscribe to a newspaper and that we would have needed to put down four layers of newsprint to one layer of builders’ paper… well, the builders’ paper won out.
And with all the wood it took just to hold the paper down, I’m glad we weren’t using newspaper!

Lee Reich’s Weedless Gardening suggests wetting down the paper before putting on the mulch for beds and paths, but since the forecast calls for rain again this weekend and the ground is quite wet already, we chose to forgo that step.

Because the ground is so wet and soft, we had the mulch dumped in the front yard instead of brought around to the garden area:
Davey, Barak, Elanor, and Josiah worked at loading wheelbarrows of mulch and bringing them around back. Katie helped some with that, as well as with bringing 2x4s out to the garden.

This hen enjoyed some peace and quiet (aka reprieve from the pesky rooster) inside the garden fence while we worked:

Jonathan used 2x4s to lay out the beds:
We just have the mulch for the beds so far, so the path areas will be empty until we get our wood chips (hopefully early next week). Once we have both the mulch and the woodchips in, we plan to take out the boards.

And here is our progress at the end of the day:

One last bit of gardening news: I finally got the tomatoes and peppers planted on Sunday. The tomato seedlings have definitely sprouted! It’s funny to me how they are all reaching for the flourescent kitchen light in this picture (and pardon the quality; the flash died in our camera).
The peppers are a bit slower, but we expect to see them sprouting any day now.

Whew, hope you’re not too tired of hearing about our garden. There’s much more to come over the next several months.