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As I was in the garden this morning, planting and caring for the fall crop of vegetables, hands dirty and soul full, He began to speak to me, yet again, through this farm life we live.

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As I listened and looked around, this is what I saw…

Broccoli, growing with onions. Lettuces, tucked under peppers and eggplant, enjoying the respite of the sun’s heat. Kale, standing tall amongst the broad leaves of giant mustard greens.

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Radish seeds being tucked in for a short nap, as the brussels sprouts wait for their complementary leaves to come forth from the ground. Basil, sage, rosemary and thyme intermingle with it all, purifying with their fragrance.

As my eyes were lifted from the vegetable filled beds, I noticed dozens of Gulf Fritillary butterflies enjoying their breakfast from one of the many varieties of Zinnias growing on the west side of the garden.

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I walked over for a closer look with my camera, intersecting the highway of buzzing bees, making their rounds to all the available basil blooms. Hummers flew from the lantana to the spider lillies, which are so abundantly beckoning the fall season upon us.

Scores of song birds welcomed the morning. Jays, busy bickering amongst each other. Mockingbirds, irritating all the true singers of songs. Cawing of crows in the distant and a squirrel barking at a cat, whom we call Dog.

Wrens, woodpeckers, chickadees, bluebirds… All unseen, but purposefully contributing to the symphony of life on our little sanctuary.

Then the hens chimed in, as if telling the others to come and see the glorious morning. The roosters, and the boy goats, calling to their ladies in grandeur.

The peacock slowly, yet confidently, walked down the hill, his colors radiant. Regal. One simply must stop and respectfully watch him pass.

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As I went on about my work, sowing seeds to bring forth life, the diversity that laid before me and around me… it was abundant, and astounding.

Powerful.

Beautiful.

All of it, despite evident differences, working together for the greater good.

Life, as it should be…

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Shedding Skins

Five.

The number of times a Monarch caterpillar sheds its skin during its lifetime.

That wild concept of “progression” just keeps coming up, doesn’t it?

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I have come to realize, through the raising of Monarchs here on our farm, that the life stage of the caterpillar is one of incomparable beauty and growing wisdom.

An extremely important part of the entire process.

One that, in my opinion, should be considered more deeply, rather than so casually overlooked, as it so often is. For without it, the miraculous transformation to butterfly cannot, and will not, occur.

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From the time the teeny tiny caterpillar emerges from its egg casing, it has one thing on its mind. Food. Milkweed, to be exact. And no, you cannot force feed it whatever you think it should eat.

It knows what nourishes.

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As they tirelessly consume the milkweed, growth occurs exponentially. Hence, the need for shedding of skin.

When the maximum growth for each stage is achieved, the cats rear their heads up, initiating break through, and then walk right out of their old skin. After a moment of allowing the new skin to dry and harden, they turn and consume that which they have left behind.

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As if to say “Our past has the potential to nourish our future…”

Hmm.

The Progressive Fruit

Each and every day, we strive to learn something new. At least one thing. Anything. Every day. It’s kind of our mantra around the farm, as there is a l w a y s an abundance of newness to be discovered.

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However, in this particular season, there is rarely a day that goes by in which I, we, don’t discover multiple new things.

For me, personally, the garden has been full of discovery this year.

It’s been an odd one, this growing season. The rains were abundant early on, and while that has led to very productive vines, it has also lengthened the ripening process of some fruits. What is normally harvested in one or two waves, has turned into four or five, or more.

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Now, I’m not necessarily saying the harvest is more abundant this year. It’s just spread out. Those half dozen trips to the pea patch yield the same this year as the two trips last year. Four trips to the fig tree over three weeks time offer the same amount as one did, previously.

And I wonder – is it best to have all the fruit ripen at once? Seems like less time is required from us. Less work. Or is it?

Sure, there may be fewer trips to the field for harvesting. And all those buckets slap full can make you feel really accomplished.

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But.

The pressure of what to do with all that ripened fruit, at one time, can get quite overwhelming. And if there isn’t some sort of working plan for it, it can ruin very quickly, becoming good for nothing.

So it is in our own lives. The lives of our children. And the relationships of both.

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I think maybe the lesson in this season has to do with progression – “the process of developing or moving gradually towards a more advanced state.”

If we truly are progressing, there will be, at some point, multiple points, fruit ready for harvesting.

And when it is, we must ask ourselves what we are going to do with it. Will it be arranged in a beautiful bowl, on display for all to marvel at, but well on its way to spoiling? Will it be shared with others, that they may be nourished as well?

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Will it be combined with other fruits, each bringing out the best of the other?

And, finally, are we taking measures to preserve the over abundance, that it may be put to good use when needed?

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I no longer wonder if the progressive fruit is more work on our part. I know it is. For this particular season has taught me firsthand. And although it is exhausting and time consuming and ALOT of work, it’s so worth the outcome.

Sow the seed. Tend the plant. Render the fruit. Preserve the harvest. Do the work. Because one day, that fruit will produce fruit of its own…

Blessings to ya’ll this weekend 🙂

 

Soul Grabbers

We are unschoolers. Simply put, we learn by doing what we love. Every single day.

And for the past six months, a very large part of that learning, albeit not always out of love but neccesity, has been centered around raising four Nubian goat kids and a livestock guardian pup.

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This new adventure did not come on a whim. For months, we, as a family, carefully contemplated all the pros and cons, researched, and respectfully considered each other’s input on the matter.

From barn design, breed research, bookkeeping and bottle feeding to animal dynamics, discipline, disease and death.

The learning has been deep, imperfect and, at times, painful.

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For months there were multiple feedings required each day. Bottles had to be washed. A lot. Milk had to be warmed. Even on those nights when we’ve just wanted to put on our pjs and call it a day, the babies needed our time and attention.

Stalls had to be mucked. Sleepovers away from home had to be rescheduled, for duty calls. One more trip to the feed store because we miscalculated on a bag or two. Stormy days when we reeeeeally didn’t want to trudge back to the barnyard and lock them up for the night. Seemingly endless trips to pick up milk for the growing babies.

Shots and medicines to give. And yes, even death…

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Raising these goats was seeming more like scutwork, rather than fun.

Scutwork is defined as “trivial, unrewarding, tedious, dirty, and disagreeable chores; usually inherent in the operations of a larger project.” I. Love. That.

And I’ve come to learn that the soul grabbers are almost always intertwined with the seemingly mundane. The scutwork.

Like the deep, belly laughter radiating from a girl frolicking with her goat. The goat kids and human kids calling to and answering each other in a language perfected. Heads butted and hearts stolen. The immense knowledge that is gained through experience. Patience and gratitude and grace and mercy abounding through the actions of sisters working together. The selflessness of girls who let their momma sleep in from farm chores on Sunday mornings. And so much more…

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Scutwork, in its most authentic form, is LIFE.

And when we, with humble hearts wide open, take this gift of every day life – the trivial, unrewarding, tedious, dirty, and disagreeable – seeing each and every moment as an opportunity to grow in awareness of a God that marvels in His creation… well… then we are truly living.

And truly learning.

 

The Parable of the Pea Patch

We planted a pea patch this year.

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On a piece of land that belongs to our elderly neighbors, with an old 8N Ford tractor that belonged to my husband’s father, and a John Deere planter that’s every bit as old as I am. The nostalgia of that trio nearly did me in before the peas ever even peaked their heads out of the soil.

As I watched my husband ready that field for planting – bush hogging, plowing and making rows in that sleepy soil – I knew. I knew God had plans to speak to me there, teaching me, us, yet again, many things through this life on the farm…

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The old timers rule of thumb for planting peas goes like this…

“Three days after the full moon, in April, May or June.”

So that’s what we did. Three days after the full moon in April, which just happened to fall on Good Friday this year, under the instruction of my husband, our two teenage daughters climbed on that 8N Ford with the old John Deere planter and began sowing seeds.

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Twenty six rows. Each row three hundred feet long.

I stood there with the youngest girl and watched, with a full heart, longing desperately for my granddaddy, my Honey, to be there witnessing it with me. He would’ve had a huge grin on his face. You know, the kind of grin that makes your eyes water with inexplicable joy and humble pride?

But since he couldn’t be there with me, I wore that grin, on my own face, in his honor.

Three days later, on Easter Sunday, those peas, despite being buried deeply, burst forth from that ground as if they were proclaiming the resurrection themselves.

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The abundant rains this spring fed and nourished that ground. The seed was good and so the plants grew exponentially. Like no pea patch we’d ever seen.

We kept a careful watch on them, for bugs and disease. And while there were a few bugs, as there always are in a diverse, healthy ecosystem, no pesticides were sprayed. The threat of pests proved to be no match for the strength of the plants and their ability to overcome.

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The weeks passed, we waited, and they continued to grow. And grow. And grow some more.

And then, one day we looked out across the field and there were blooms of white and yellow all across the blanket of green. Tiny pods began to form. I began to worry whether bugs would become an increased risk to our newly forming fruits.

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The old timers said to spray the field as soon as it bloomed, because the bugs would it eat up.

But… I just watched the field even more carefully. Walking the rows, inspecting the bugs. Googling pictures of bugs I wasn’t familiar with. Yes, there were some bugs that posed a threat. But there were also tons of beneficial bugs. And I resolved that I absolutely would not spray that field with a pesticide. Just the same, we have resolved not to spray a universal “pesticide” on the lives of our children, but that’s a whole other blog post. (Maybe I’ll get the nerve to write it one day…)

And the pods grew. More blooms opened. More pods grew. And the cycle continued. And before we knew it, it was time to begin harvesting.

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The first harvest was sporadic. Peas ready here and there. I believe we spent most of that morning trying not to trample the vines and consequently harm the larger, plumper unripened peas.

First fruits. Hmm.

The following weekend, however, was a completely different story. The one time field of green had turned into a field of purple. A royal harvest.

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Brad and I were alone in our efforts that morning, as all three farm girls were away the night before. And as I stood halfway down my first three hundred foot row, five gallon bucket nearly full, back slightly aching already from the amount of bending over required, sweat pouring, clothes sticking, I looked over at him and said, “This gives a whole new meaning to ‘The fields are ripe for harvest, but the workers are few’ huh?”

He agreed, we laughed about it and made promises that we WOULD have reinforcement the next morning.

But as I continued down my row, picking ripe pods, I couldn’t help but observe all the stages of growth that were right there in my midst.

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In one glance, there were blooms opening, beckoning new growth. Then there were inch long, bright green baby pods, and right next to them, mid sized pods with deeper shades of green and evidence of developing fruit inside.

There were full size, long green pods, their purple tinted skin taut with growing fruit. And fully purple pods, in their prime and beautiful with the sheen of ripeness.

And last, but certainly not least, there were the duller, drier, wrinkled pods. They retained their royal purple, although their sheen was gone. Yet the promise of future life was still held inside of them.

Yes, this most definitely brings a whole new meaning to that scripture above.

As a gardener/farmer, I’ve come to learn the many, many stages of a harvest. Contrary to what we believe, not all harvests ripen at once. Its an ongoing process. And one that requires different measures, because each is measured differently.

I’ve also come to learn that the workers are few because the work is hard. Very hard. But we are guaranteed that all hard work brings a profit.

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Be it in a pea patch, a marriage, raising children.

All of life, really…

Shall we ponder on that awhile?

 

Farm Livin’ – June

Wow. June is gone? Half the year is gone?

How is that possible??

Those of you who follow along with our adventures via Facebook and Instagram may have already seen some of these photos! But, for those of you who have not, here’s a little look at some of our June happenings on the farm.

It was a full month. Wonder what July has in store?

Blessings to ya’ll… 🙂

Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce

Alert! Alert!

We interrupt, albeit very briefly, this ridiculously busy garden season to say hello.

So, hey. How ya’ll doin? We’re good. Crazy busy in the gardens. Tomatoes, snap beans, peas… But so goes the season. This too shall pass.

But I also wanted to take a minute to share with ya’ll a recipe for the BEST pasta sauce      e v e r.

Seriously.

You’ll never want another. So, here ya go. You’re welcome.

Be sure to read over the ingredient list and instructions before you dive off into this. There is quite a bit of prep work. 🙂

Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce

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What you’ll need:

Boiling water canner

6 or 7 pint jars, with lids and bands

6 bulbs garlic (not cloves, the whole bulb)

3 T olive oil

4 medium red, yellow and/or green sweet peppers, halved and seeded

12 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled

3 T packed brown sugar

4 t salt

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 t black pepper

2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, snipped

1 cup lightly packed assorted fresh herbs (such as oregano, thyme, parsley…)

6 T lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel away the dry outer layer son skin from garlic bulbs, leaving other skin and cloves intact. Cut about 1/2 inch off pointed top portions, leaving bulbs intact but exposing the individual cloves. Place the garlic bulbs, cut side up, in a casserole dish. Drizzle with 1 T of the olive oil. Cover casserole dish. Arrange peppers, cut sides down, on a foil lined baking sheet and brush with remaining 2 T olive oil.
  2. Roast garlic and peppers for 40-50 minutes or until pepper skins are charred and garlic cloves are soft. Cool garlic on a wire rack until cool enough to handle. Pull up sides of foil and pinch together to fully enclose the peppers. Let peppers stand for 15 to 20 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Peel off skins and discard. Chop pepper and set aside.
  3. Remove garlic cloves from paper skins by squeezing the bottoms of the bulbs. Place garlic cloves in a food processor. Cut peeled tomatoes into chunks, add some of the chunks to the garlic in food processor. Cover and process until chopped.
  4. Transfer chopped garlic and tomatoes to a 7-8 quart stainless steel, enamel or nonstick heavy pot. Repeat chopping the remaining tomatoes, in batches, in the food processor. Add all tomatoes to the pot.
  5. Add brown sugar, salt, vinegar and black pepper to the tomato mixture. Bring to boiling. Boil steadily, uncovered, for 50 minutes, stirring often. Add chopped peppers to tomato mixture. Boil for 10-20 minutes more or until mixture is reduced to about 11 cups and reaches desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in basil and assorted herbs.
  6. Spoon 1 T of the lemon juice into each of six hot, sterilized pint canning jars. Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids.
  7. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 35 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner and cool on wire racks.

One day I’ll get better at remembering to take pictures of the entire process, step by step. In the meantime, I’m always here if you have questions!

Blessings to ya’ll…