Consecration Acres

"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy."

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Slow week

Slow it was and the weather was cool and perfect for gardening, etc. More the shame, but sometimes one can’t do exactly what one would wish. It seems the more ones are involved, the greater the likelihood of this occurring. I imagine, though, that it is good for me to set my preferences aside and that the One who set up this whole system, will take care of the garden and trees in my absence.

The kids and I went up to the orchard where we bought all those oranges for a sort-of picnic just before our dentist appointments. We decided to eat our lunch at home, as Chickpea Curry would have been a mess with a bunch of kids on a blanket, but we bought oranges and apples there. We held our morning devotional on their lovely lawn and then nearly finished our book before we had to leave. I wish we had not been so rushed—it was so, so beautiful. When I look out over our little orchard, beginning garden and bare/weedy yard, I see this place in my mind’s eye. Mature fruit trees producing an abundance of food, and a clean, beautiful and orderly place to live, work and enjoy. Some day! Truly! I just have to hope that if I keep hacking away at it, eventually I’ll get there.

I finally got the front porch cleaned off. The kids had let cardboard and packing materials accumulate and between that, the potted blueberries (which are now all planted except one) that had been repeatedly de-mulched by the cats, and the handiwork of thousands of spiders, it was looking pretty awful. Now it looks bare, but clean. I’d really like to get the door painted and the planters refilled with something heat and shade-loving and preferably useful for food or medicine. Searching…

I’ve also been cleaning and organizing our bonus room. We had stashed the low-priority boxes up there when we first moved so we could deal with the more urgent things. Unfortunately, the kids got into them and broke, lost and scattered their contents all over the room. For anyone wondering, having a big house definitely has some disadvantages. A-number-one is that you can be blithely living your life in one end of it, thinking that all is well, while the house and its contents are being destroyed at the other and you have no idea until it is too late. Anyhow, a couple of giant cardboard bonfires and six or so weeks of slightly overstuffing our trash can and we’ll see the end of the trash. Then I’ll just have kids’ clothing, camping supplies, old paper files and three memorabilia boxes to sort. I’ll just keep remembering how impossible it once seemed to fill up all my canning jars…

Speaking of canning jars, I bought another box so I could try out some strawberry-pear butter. Directions so I can replicate or tweak next time: 7-quart slow cooker filled with pear puree, cooked down to 2/3rds, added 2 lbs of strawberries, cooked down to about ½ full, added a few dashes of salt, a couple Tablespoons of vanilla, ½ lemon, 1/3 cup sugar and then finally immersion-blended in another pound of fresh strawberries as things just weren’t coming together. It turned out fine, but apple seems the way to go if you want to stretch strawberries.

I need to spend some time building cardboard lids and dividers for jars so I can get them out of my kitchen. Once upon a time canning jars boxes kept your jars clean and from rattling into eachother. No more. So, I build my own out of the abundance of cardboard we always seem to have. They are sturdy and protective by the time I’m done, but I hate taking the time out of my day to do it. I wish these weren’t so expensive!

The garden and orchard are great right now. Thing are sprouting and blooming, fruitlets are forming and bees and butterflies are everywhere. Grace always wants to come with me when I go out to work. I always put on grubby clothes and take my little soft-side toolbag that has my gardening things in it. On Monday, Grace came out with me wearing a pink dress with a ruffled hem, her blue “straw” hat with a flower, and a little princess purse. When we got to the garden, she unzipped her purse and got out her pink, flowered gardening gloves. I thought we made quite the pair.

Our second bed if built and mostly filled. It just needs fertilizing and mixing now, and just in time! Our seed potatoes are still waiting and our sweet potatoes are very aware that it’s Spring and are growing in earnest. I finally broke off some of the longer sprouts to root in water and discovered that one already had an abundance of roots. We need to plant soon. Oh, and the one sweet potato that hadn’t grown anything yet, finally sprouted leaves…underwater of course. I think they are mocking me.

And we finish up the week sick again (just colds), looking forward to General Conference and with rain forecast. Pray, pray, pray. We still have only about 1/3 of what we need to keep from deepening the drought.

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Take Two

[Most of this was written on Saturday.]

We were instructed in General Conference today not to make our online lives appear too glossy. I find some counsel is easy to keep right now, such as having a messy house but keeping up with gospel study (“It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.”) or that if the members of the Church knew how important food storage was they would keep it in their living rooms (I FINALLY got the boys to take 16 buckets of various types of food out of the living room today—it tends to migrate in and never leave (and I’m still looking for that reference…if anyone knows what it is, please share!)) and perusing my last couple of posts I can’t believe I could ever be accused of gloss. Messy house, check! Food storage in living room, check! Non-gloss, check! I’m on a roll…

I spoke too soon on the illness thing. Joseph’s congestion and sleeplessness persisted and then Grace caught it on Monday and that night and evening was up screaming with an ear infection. Fortunately, I found a remedy that worked really quickly for her, but I’ve been struggling healthwise all week from so many nights without sleep. Add to that the fact that the washing machine is still broken (that was not the right part after all) and so I’ve been doing some laundry shuttling (to a very kind neighbor who has allowed us to use her washer) and then had peppers, cucumbers, peaches and an extra couple of gallons of milk to deal with on top of the usual stuff…and then I’m just so tired of the couch that it’s hard to rest even when I’m tired and sick. Conference has given me a good reason to rest today and tomorrow is the Sabbath so maybe by Monday I’ll feel better.

Preserving in the kitchen is going fine. I did 3 ½ quarts of dill pickles this week, 2 pints of sweet pickled peppers (leading to an impromptu one-up Peter Piper based tongue-twister competition with the kids, as in “Peter Piper’s papa picked a proper peck of pickled purple peppers” etc) and 5 pints of peach chutney. I’m going to need to buy more vinegar! Pickling is both fun and really odd as the process is not complete until after the jars are sealed and so there is no tasting to decide whether you actually want to go through with it. The cheap part of me is really glad I have lids that I can re-use in case I create things inedible… And speaking of lids, I have actually broken into packages that I have never used before, which means my production is actually ahead of our consumption! Amazing!

My mozzarella sat too long after I added the rennet, “clean break” was a distant memory by the time I got back to it, but as long as it is cheese-ish, my family doesn’t seem to care. We only used half of the last batch in quiche, but it is all gone now. We must have mice…who can open refrigerator doors…

Our neighbor goat-lady came out to check on Ella’s tattoo (registered dairy goats are tattooed in their ears or tail webbing for identification purposes) and it turns out that hers was a duplicate and they’ll need to add a digit to make her distinct and registerable. After she checked up on the boys’ hoof-trimming skills we sent her home with an old sock in a jar to turn into a buck rag. Our abilities to detect goats in heat are pretty awful without this aid, we’ve got to do better. I am still having nightmarish visions of driving these silly goats back and forth in the car.

I am worrying a bit about our fall garden. We do have a few sprouts, but we seem to have far more grass and weeds. I knew it was a risk as old as the seeds were, but it’s still a bit disappointing. I’m kind of inclined just to stick the rest of them in the ground, late or not, and just see what happens. Last year we still had warm-weather crops hanging in till December. It didn’t quite compensate for the lack of rain and chill hours, but it was something, and it would mean we’d start out with a fresher slate seed-wise next year. I also wonder if soil temperatures have anything to do with it—we have been awfully warm for cool-season baby plants. Maybe we’ll need shade cloth even to get the fall garden to work and not just to keep things from going dormant in the summer. I’m hoping to get our peas in ASAP and I’m considering getting some grocery store garlic and planting that as well. We’ll see if we get to any of this additional planting or if we’ll just have a sparse harvest of what we already have in. If I could only make things happen by typing them out.

Regarding the future of the garden, I am reading more on year-round gardening. The author does a lot of succession planting which substantially breaks up the work of planting and harvesting. This appeals to me in the same way that small-batch canning does: the work is in small enough bursts that I can pretend that I’m not actually doing it! Heaven knows I cannot block off an entire day to plant, but I can snag twenty minutes here and there to put in the next small set of whatever needs planting. He says it also helps mitigate disappointment when things don’t take—shrug it off and just put in whatever is next on the list. I am also thinking that maybe we could try just growing on either side of the heat, let the garden rest or grow cover crops and just deal with in-season fruit during the miserable months.

And the time has come for the chickens—the first lucky half dozen have their date with destiny this Tuesday. We need to clear out a fridge to chill them before tucking them into the freezer and get ahold of a killing cone and some well-sharpened knives. It’s amazing how quickly we got here and how much is not yet ready because we never really decided how we were going to approach certain things… At some point we’ll have this all down, but probably not this week. My husband asked yesterday how much we had spent on feed. I told him I wasn’t even really keeping track of that this year. We never got them out to forage and we switched them over to broiler pellets late. I could figure it out but it would probably depress me. This is our introductory year to Raising Chickens for Meat. We’ll improve on our methods and do a thorough cost analysis when we do it next time. For now we’ll just be happy if we can see this thing through to edible chicken meat.

My husband went through and weed-whacked what was left in the future garden area and orchard. We can see better the area where we are hoping to put the grapes and berries in. I am trying to contain my excitement. I am badly missing Oregon berries.

I may have found a place to order little, inexpensive trees. Yes, it’s lovely to start with 6’ or more, but you sure pay for it. If you only want 2 or 3, then that is fine, but as we look at wood lot and shade tree purchases, saving 90% is appealing.


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The Windows of Heaven

Last night I listened to this talk right before bed.  I am really enjoying this Conference a lot.  Between sickness and trying to get set up for our wood stove installation on the following Monday, I feel my attention was not all it could have been, so I am grateful that we have these so quickly available so I didn’t have to miss anything.

I’ll share a couple of lines that stood out, and then my thoughts on them.

He was speaking about paying tithing and noted several “subtle but significant blessings” that come from keeping this commandment.  “For example, a subtle but significant blessing we receive is the spiritual gift of gratitude that enables our appreciation for what we have to constrain desires for what we want.”  As a culture we struggle so much with the 10th commandment, indeed we have entire industries dedicated to cultivate and create desires in us for things that we do not have.  Coveting keeps us in blinders, focused only on what we want and oblivious to the needs of those around us, sometimes even to the point that we value stuff over the lives of others.  I’ve always loved the line, “Those of us who have must live simply, that others may simply live.”  (I just looked this up and it is from Elizabeth Seton and I guess the actual quote begins at “live”.)  I do not believe this in a “green” sense.  I believe the Lord when He says “the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things,” and I trust that when we are generous He will provide barrels of meal and cruses of oil that will not fail, but we must be generous.  Grabbiness and selfishness leads to nothing but misery.  Paying tithing helps us quash these.

I found this intriguing.  He was listing things that we might pray for and how the actual blessings of the Lord may differ and yet still help us through our challenges and to accomplish righteous goals.  He said, “We might plead for prosperity, and we receive enlarged perspective and increased patience, or we petition for growth and are blessed with the gift of grace.”  I think perhaps I see this second part played out in my life now.  The Lord could respond to my prayers these days by instantly healing my body, but instead I see him giving me what I need when I need it: sufficient energy and clarity to deal with issues that arise with the kids, to go pick up animal feed when my husband’s schedule will not allow him to, to keep milking the (smelly!) goats.  At these times we wish we were just strong enough to deal with it ourselves, but instead the Lord gives to us as manna from Heaven so we do not forget our dependence on Him.

Great talk.  I’m so grateful for his testimony and insights.

On a related note: today I also see His grace in the way I perceive my circumstances.  Looking ahead I likely have 6-7 more weeks of feeling mostly rotten and that feels long and daunting, but looking back on having been sick already for an even longer period it seems to have gone by very quickly.  I keep looking at my belly and thinking, “isn’t this a little early?  aren’t I a little big for this point?” but then think back to significant events in past pregnancies (such as both of my sisters’ weddings during my third pregnancy!) and, no, I’m pretty much normal.  The time is just passing!