Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Makeup-less Week

So, as part of my Lenten observance and Walking Humbly, this week I wore no makeup.  At all.  Anywhere.  And, I didn't just hide out in the house either.  Among other things, I ran about 8 shopping errands, sang in front of my church, ran kids to various activities, and today will host a birthday party.  I had countless conversations with others.  And, here's my big revelation . . . the most shocking and potentially life-changing thing I learned . . . are you ready for it?

Here it is . . .

No one's paying as much attention to me as I thought they were. 

Duh, right? 

But, here's the thing:  why would I be hesitant to leave the house bare-faced?  Because of what others might think of me?  But, that's just it . . . they aren't thinking of me.  What do they care?

I look in the mirror and see the zit on my chin, the scars on my cheeks, the too-large pores, the bags under my eyes, my non-existent eyelashes, and lips the same color as my skin -- sounds awful, right?  But, I am my harshest critic.  And, why in the world should I let these things bother me if they don't seem to bother anyone else?

It's really freeing really.  Here's the honest truth, it wasn't until we were at church Wednesday night, about to go up and perform a special that John looked at me and said, "You're not wearing any makeup, are you?  Is this the week you're giving that up?"

Wednesday, people! 

My own husband! 

And I'm worried about what others might think? 

Watch out world!  I may just start wearing sweatpants everywhere I go!  I guess there's no need to warn you, though, because you won't even notice!

This week, Little Boy greeted me each morning with the same words he used last week:  "Momma, I love you.  You are the best Momma."  Sure, I know that the subtext is, "Aren't I sweet?  Don't you want to get me some breakfast now?"  But, the point is, I'm the same Momma this week that I was last week.  The people in my life who matter at all don't care a lick what I look like.  They do care about how I act, what I say, what I stand for . . .whether or not I get them breakfast. 

Ahhh.  Now there's the challenge.  A bad attitude or sour spirit cannot be masked by a little concealer.  Now that I know no one is paying much attention to my outside, it's time to spend a little less time making it up and a little more time developing a heart like Jesus.  Ultimately, that's Who I want people to see when they look at me anyway.

Friday, March 29, 2013

How Does a Gardener Grow?

Here's a fun quote for you:

When gardeners garden, it is not just plants that grow, but the gardeners themselves.
--Ken Druse

So true, right?  There are lots of ways that being out in nature and digging in the dirt grows me.  But, in a very practical sense, gardening teaches me to be a better gardener.

As the garden progressed last year, I made a few notes that I hoped would help me out in the future.  Here are some examples:

1.  My broccoli plants got huge but never developed heads.  They took up way too much space and yielded us nothing.  Nix them in the future.
2.  Radishes -- I grew them.  They were bitter, as radishes apparently are. No one ate them.  End of story.  Why did I even plant these?
3.  Continue planting flowers amidst veggies to encourage beneficial insects.  However, don't grow flowers from seed; get small plants instead.  By the time the flowers were in bloom, I'd missed the window of time when I really needed to be attracting the beneficials.
4.  While we're speaking of flowers, nix the Candytuft.  It didn't grow at all.
5.  Grow more of the following (we ate them up too fast):  beets, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, carrots
6.  And, based on #5, I'd better add another root bed.
7.  Add Pattypan squash -- a squash I discovered at the farmer's market --so cute and super yummy!
8.  Speaking of squash -- 3 zucchini plants was too much for our family.  Even the chickens eventually tired of it.  Cut back to 2 plants.
9. Forget about growing corn -- too little return for the space requirement in a square foot garden.  Can be purchased cheaply in season at the farmer's market for canning/freezing purposes.
10.  Don't put two trellisses back-to-back only a foot apart.  What was I thinking?  As anyone with half a brain would be able to anticipate, I couldn't pick anything that grew between the two. 

Maybe you, too, can glean a thing or two from my 2012 gardening notes.

What about you?  How did you grow as a gardener last year? 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Making the Most of Less Heat

Meet our little gas space heater. 

Usually, we hook him up when the weather turns cold and turn him on every once in awhile.
This Lenten season, though, I've made different use of him and saved some cash along the way.

As a part of our Carbon Fast, I decided to program the central heat thermostat so that it drops down to 60 during the school day.  That may sound pretty extreme, but hear me out.  Right up until the girls leave for school and John for work, the central heater functions as usual, keeping us plenty warm.  Then, at 8:00, it turns off and (since it never actually gets as cool as 60 inside) stays off until 3:15 when it warms the house back up for when the girls get off the bus. 

What about me and Little Boy who are still home most school days? Even on the coldest days, it takes several hours before we start to get uncomfortable.  When/if that happens, I turn on the space heater which warms the kitchen and living room -- pretty  much the only areas we're in anyway. Now, Little Boy is the most warm-natured person I know.  He has sweaty palms and feet pretty much always.  So, by the time he lays down for his after-lunch nap, his room is nice and cool, just the way he likes it.  And, he is able to sleep comfortably, snuggled up with his favorite blanket.  (He's actually a much happier boy when he wakes up in a cool room than when he wakes up sweaty.)  As for me, this is my work time.  Sure, the house is cool, but it's just motivation for me to get moving.  I putter around working on projects or hit the treadmill to warm up. 

I'm not sure how much credit this new practice should receive, but our electricity bill was about $20 lower than it has been.

We may give this practice up soon, but it'll be because the weather's warming . . . not because Lent is over.  It's definitely something we'll put into practice again next winter. 

Now, I just need a plan for how to save $$ on our cooling bill come summertime!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Can Goats Be Beautiful?

If you'd asked me last year, I'd have told you no.  They can be cute.  playful.  fun.  But, not beautiful.  That was before I met our little Star Baby. 
In the videos she's the lightest colored one and our only baby girl. 

Her adorable pink nose distinguishes her from the boys and gives her a more feminine look.  Because we know we plan to milk her in the future and will need to handle her a lot, we are being intentional about holding/petting her everyday.  She's pretty affectionate and gives me little kisses while I'm holding her -- so cute!

Oh, and how exactly did Scarf get herself into this precarious spot?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Uses for Old Things

You may remember these from my post on convenience foods.  One of the ways I've justified to myself the purchase of these yummy grapefruit segments was my plan to reuse the containers.
So,  once I'd amassed a good number of them, I set about removing the labels and filling them up with pantry staples.  These containers are great for such uses because . . .
1.  They are wide-mouthed and therefore easy to scoop out of.
2.  They are shaped in such a way that they are easily gripped.
3.  They stack well and are the perfect height to stack two-high on my pantry shelves. 

I usually make use of Goo Gone to get off the sticky stuff leftover from labels.  This time, I used peanut butter and had great results.  I felt a little weird using our organic, unsalted peanut butter that comes from our co-op, though.  Maybe I should pick up a tub of the cheap stuff to use for label removal in the future.  :)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Final Lenten Week: Walk Humbly

Okay.  Here we go. 

I guess it was about a year ago that I first knew I would be doing this.  I'd asked my sister what she was planning to give up for Lent last year.  She mentioned that she'd briefly considered giving up makeup for the Lenten season.  40 days with NO MAKEUP?  "I could never do that!"  And as soon as I'd uttered those words, I knew I would do it.  After all, that's what Lent's about, right?  In the past, I've given up meat, chocolate, cereal.  Nothing has hurt too much.  But, it's supposed to be a real sacrifice.  It's supposed to be hard.  It's almost embarrassing to admit it's a hard thing to give up.  I mean when you look at it like this, "God provided the ultimate sacrifice, allowing His Son to die a brutal death to save me.  I guess I could give up makeup for a week as a way to remember that sacrifice."  Yep, embarrassing.

Now, for some people, this might not be too hard.  But, I vividly remember the day, just before I started the 7th grade, when my mom took me over to her friend's house for a Beauticontrol makeover.  She purchased me my first makeup, and from that moment on, I wore it.  Always.  Everyday.  I may have left the house without it perhaps 3 or 4 times in the, umm, lots of years that have passed since then.  I've certainly not gone without it for a solid week.

I pondered this challenge all year, off and on.  When I came across the Carbon Fast, I thought, "this is much more my speed.  I'll do this instead."  And, then I saw the "Walk Humbly" week.  And,  there I was again.  Of course, walking humbly is about much more than bypassing makeup.  It's about becoming smaller so that He becomes bigger, greater.  As a song from "A New Liturgy" puts it:    "I'm only a part of the story.  But, I'm a part of the story.  So, I'll take my part in the story, get out of myself, get over myself, get lost in the story of somebody else."

Real Simple says, "According to a new British study, the average woman spends 474 days of her lifetime (that’s one year, and 3 months) applying makeup and other cosmetics."  Holy bat poop!  I mean, I don't even see my face when I'm out in public.  I "put my face on" so that others see me a certain way.  And why?  Is it not entirely about vanity?  Is vanity not in direct opposition to humility?

Don't worry, I ran this idea past my hubby:  "I'm thinking of giving up makeup next week.  Seems like the kind of thing I ought to run by you.  Any opinions on this?"   He had the exact right response.    He just turned and delivered me a look that said, "Are you seriously asking me this?  What kind of jerk would I be if I had an opinion on this?"

I thought of several ways I could walk more humbly this week.  I could go logo-less, avoiding name brands, or not post to FaceBook (I mean the subtext of most of my posts, after all, is "aren't my kids cute?").  But, I decided that this one thing will provide enough of a challenge.  I am going to throw in "wearing no jewelry" because it seems to go hand-in-hand with the spirit of :no makeup."  Other than that, though, we'll just leave it at this.

And, of course, I'll be praying:
Father, help me to overcome my selfishness this week.  Help me avoid making an effort to impress others.  Humble me, and allow me to see others as better than myself.  Help me not to look out only for my own interests, but to take an interest in others as well so that I may have the same attitude as Your Son who, though he was God did not think of equality to God as something to cling to.  Instead, He gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.  When He appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross. (adapted from Philippians 2:3-8).  Father, help me to get over myself and my own self-consciousness enough this week that I may see others more clearly.  Lord, use this sacrifice, however small in the grand scheme of things, to draw me closer to You, to teach me more about Your heart and Your call on my life.

I think it's pretty fitting where this week ended up falling.  If Lent is about sacrifice and deprivation, what better week to go without makeup and jewelry than the week leading up to Easter Sunday morning when we traditionally get decked out in our finest to celebrate the resurrection of our King?  So, I'll go through passion week entirely unadorned only to get all decked out for the big Sunday celebration.  I love it!

Now, for anyone who may be thinking, "Isn't telling everyone what you plan to do on a week that's all about Walking Humbly a bit incongruous?", I would say Yes.  Definitely, yes.  But, I needed to post about this for a few reasons:
1.  I've posted every Lenten week thus far and thought it might be weird not to post anything on this final week. 
2. Confessing my own difficulty in giving this up is humbling in and of itself.  If anything, this post is borne out of shame more than pride, as it's so deeply embarrassing that this small thing is so difficult a thing for me to give up.  What does that say about me, after all?
3.  I need some accountability.  If you know I'm doing this, then I'd better really be doing this. 
As further confession . . . you know, for all of Lent, this week has been looming at the end.  The weekend of no-sleep-goat-kidding-in-the-wee-morning-hours, my skin revolted and left me more broken out than I've been in months.  I found myself in Walmart, wandering the skin care aisle thinking, "If I got an acne treatment that just so happened to be tinted, that would still count as 'no makeup', right?"  Uggghhh.  After a minute or two, I mentally swatted myself on the wrist for such legalistic thinking and rushed myself out of that part of the store.  Am I the only one who has these weird arguments with myself?

Anyway, here we go!

Friday, March 22, 2013

New Multi-Purpose Shelving Unit

Now that the ladies out back are once again producing milk, I'm looking forward to ramping up my soap production.  As each bar needs to "cure" (sit around in a well-ventilated area) for about 4 weeks before use, I need a pretty good amount of space to store the curing bars.  My wonderful husband purchased me this new wire rack.  It was 50-ish dollars on Home Depot's website, qualified for free shipping, and was easily assembled.  It's hard to make out in the photo, but it's a brushed bronze, so I think it looks a little nicer than the shiny metal of most wire racks. 
Since I don't currently have a lot of bars curing (the babies are still getting most of the milk) and since we'll soon be having company who will need the guest bed, I decided to move my seedlings from the bed to the rack.  The grow lights are afixed to the shelf above and since the shelves are adjustable, I can easily move them to allow for plant growth.

Here's a look at my tomatoes today.

More tomatoes

On the bottom rack, I've got my sweet potato starts . . .

 . . . and starchy potato starts.  Yes, I know I'm a little behind on getting my potatoes in the ground  (they're supposed to be in by Valentine's Day, right?) but since there are currently 3 inches of snow on the ground outside, I'm gonna beat myself up about it.  :)

Happy Snow Day!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More Gadgets than Humans

According to BPD Group, "the U.S. is home to 425 million web-connected devices, while the U.S. Census Bureau reports a population of 315 million."  We now have more web-connected gizmos than we do people!

Wow!  And, so true.  You've heard me talk about how we don't have television, but don't let that fool you into thinking that means we're disconnected.  Let's inventory our house:  3 Kindles, 2 iPads, and 2 laptops, 1 desktop, and 2 smart phones.  That makes 10 devices in a household of 5. 

I'm aware that I've become a bit "preachy" here lately with my Lenten posts and all, so I'm not going to elaborate on what this stat says about us or how it ought to challenge us.  I'll just say "Wow!" and otherwise let it speak for itself.  Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Garden Boxes!!

Last year's square foot garden was comprised of 5 boxes.  This year, we added 3 for a total of 8.  What better way to celebrate the first day of spring than checking that chore off the list? 

We started by laying out the newspaper we'd saved all winter all over the new ground to be covered.  We did this "Guard-thick."  This just means that we took our local, small-town newspaper, opened it up to the middle, and laid it out so that the ground was covered with paper 3-4 sheets thick.  

Once the ground was covered, we soaked it so that it would stay put (the wind was really blowing).
We positioned the new boxes atop the paper.

One Day 2 of the project, we made good use of our new garden cart (and child labor) and moved all of our materials (totaling around 2 tons) over to the garden boxes where we would mix it all together.

The girls showed off their muscles as they lifted these 40-lb. bags. 
Here are all of our supplies, organized and ready for mixing.  The girls are atop the peat moss bales.  The vermiculite is in the middle, and the compost is on the right.

We filled in between the boxes with old hay (it was a little too wet to feed the animals) and mulch leftover from our 2 truckbed-fulls we bought last year.
Then on Project Day 3, we mixed together our ingredients on a tarp, drug it over to each box, and dumped it in.  (That sentence makes it sound very simple.  In fact, it was very messy and took a lot of muscle and time.  This may be too much information, but I'm still blowing dirt particles out of my nose.)

Once the trellises were all up in the correct spots, I put up the signs I made for each of the kids' areas of the garden.

Here you can see the string I used to section off the square feet.  It may grow slack over the course of the summer, but I thought it was worth a try since this option is much cheaper than the window blinds I used last year.

Finally, here's a look at a new type of trellis I am testing out this season.  In just this bed (which is naturally shaded by the house in the morning), I put in these slanted trellises.  The idea is that I can grow vining things on the trellis and lettuce underneath.  Hopefully, the additional shade will allow me to grow lettuce later into the summer than a fully sunny spot would allow.  We'll see. 

How are your garden preparations coming?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bottle Baby is Here!

Meet Oreo.  It may seem strange that we would purchase a new little guy while we've got 3 babies running around that were born here just last week.  As you may recall, we lost our only buck Copper a little while back and will need a replacement for him in the fall when it's breeding season once again.  We cannot use one of our own babies as he would be breeding back to his own mother or sister.  That won't work.  We needed a new guy from a new bloodline.

His black and white swirled markings are considered very showy and are quite desirable in the goat world.  John finds him striking.  Honestly, I tend to favor the solid colors like Razz and Honey, but I've quickly learned that is quite out of fashion in goat breeding. 

Honey is sniffing out the new guy.

Because he has no Momma here on our farm, he will be bottle fed for awhle yet.  Right now, he's getting bottles at approximately 7:00am, 3:00pm, and 9:00pm.

He's a lively little guy and seems to be a great addition.  BUT . . . he's a screamer.  And, unlike the soft calls of our other goats,  his is grating!  Listen for yourself in this video John shot yesterday morning:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lenten Week 5: Live Contentedly

One of the most quoted Bible verses has got to be Philippians 4:13:  "For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."  But, the verse right before that one is often overlooked:  "I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little."

We live in a nation of plenty, of excess.   These many material possessions surely make us happier, right?  In Seven, Jen Hatmaker tells us that, "a survey of life satisfaction in more than sixty-five countries indicate that income and happiness track well until about $13,000 of annual income per person.  After that, additional income produces only modest increments in self-reported happiness.  It's no wonder.  We are incurring debt and working longer hours to pay for the high-consumption lifestyle, consequently spending less time with family, friends, and community."

Hmmmm.  Looks like maybe we ought to spend a little more time being happy with what we've got and a little less time envying the Jones'. 

In an effort to live contentedly this week, we will attempt to:
1.  take more out of the house than we bring into it.
2.  go through and clean out the kids' rooms (the only rooms I've yet to purge this winter)
3.  hold a yard sale to raise $$ to donate to those who are learning to live contentedly on much less than we have
4.  pray like this:  Lord, grant us the grace to live differently from the culture around us and to know that a life gaging fullness by possessions is an empty life indeed.  Give us the wisdom to discern the difference between wants and needs and to choose wisely how we spend the resources You have entrusted to us.  Help us to see the many, many ways in which you have blessed us that have no monetary value whatsoever. 

As for last week's "Acting Justly,"  I learned so much from Shane Claiborne's podcast on social justice (download it for free on iTunes).  I cannot accurately quote directly because I was running on a treadmill while I listened, but here are some of the post-run notes I made that are worth checking out:

1.  Justice on a social level is about love.  It's about falling in love with a group of people who are marginalized, outcast, or downtrodden and joining your voice with theirs as you work to bring them equality, fairness, love.

2.  If God has given us the eyes to see and the ears to hear a need, perhaps it's because He's inviting us to be part of the solution.  He may be calling you to be the agent of change.

3.  For those who are hesitant to give to the needy because they fear being taken advantage of, let us remember that when we meet Jesus face to face, He's unlikely to tell us that we got taken advantage of too often.  If we err in our giving, let us err on the side of grace-- err on the side of trust.

4.  Justice is not about being the Good Samaritan in Jesus' parable rather than the priest or Levite.  It's about asking the question, "why are so many people getting mugged on this road?" and seeking a solution "Maybe we ought to pave this road to Jericho or have it patrolled more closely."

5.  Claiborne offered another metaphor:  Justice is not about giving a man a fish or even teaching the man to fish.  Rather, justice is about asking who owns the pond.  In my discussions with John this week, though, he proposed an even better ending to the metaphor.  Yes, we can ask who owns the pond, but that ought to lead us to the conclusion that the pond is God's.  What we ought to do, then, is be sure that everyone has equal access to the pond.  I really like that.  My hubby -- he's so smart.  :)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Save the Trees; Save Humanity

According the March/April issue of Relevant, "If nothing is done to prevent the expected rise of 2 degrees Celsius in global average temperatures by 2050:
--250 million people will be forced to leave their homes due to extreme weather disasters
--30 million people will go hungry as agriculture suffers
-- 1 to 3 billion people will suffer acute water shortages"

Ben Lowe writes,"Our generation is inheriting a climate crisis that is fast becoming one of the gravest threats to justice, peace and human flourishing worldwide.  According to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center, not only was last year the hottest year on record in the U.S., but October 2012 also marked the 332nd consectuive month of above-average global temperatures.  In other words, no one under 28 has experienced a cooler-than-average month."

What I love about these statistics is the connection they draw between the global warming crisis and humanity.  I think that too many Prius-driving "hippies" are written off as "tree-huggers."  What we need to realize is that working at reducing emissions and bettering the environment is not just about the critters and trees.  It's about looking out for ourselves and for our fellow man.  I'm pretty sure that once more people make these connections, we'll find much greater support in our fight against global warming trends.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Goats at Play on This Beautiful Day

For your viewing enjoyment:

They crack me up with this giant rock.  They watch the cats jump up there and jump off, and the poor little goats are SO envious! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

No Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Balls

Ummm.  I could've eaten the entire tray of these in one sitting.  And I refuse to reveal how many of them I actually did eat in one sitting.  Suffice it to say, these are good . . .  very. very. good.  And, because they're made of clean, whole ingredients, you can feel good about popping them one after another and maybe saving one or two to stick in the kids' lunches.
Simply throw the following into a bowl and mix:
1 c. dry oatmeal
1/2 c. chocolate chips (I like dark chocolate -- I mean, it's good for you, right?)
1/2 c. peanut butter (if yours is unsalted like ours is, add a pinch of salt to the bowl, too)
1/2 c. ground flaxseed
1/3 c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla

(*Your most expensive ingredient is the honey, by far.  These balls are very sweet.  You could probably cut the honey by half and still find it sweet enough.)

Form dough into balls and refrigerate until hardened (I'd actually store them in the fridge, too).  Then, pop them like they're going out of style!

Now, just because they're good for you doesn't mean they're low calorie.  In fact, I did the math and found that my 20-ball batch came out to nearly 100 calories per ball.  The recipe I used actually called them "power balls."  I do think they'd be a great food to fuel a workout, but they're probably not meant to be eaten in super-large quantities (which is why I plan to wait a little while until I make a second batch.  I apparently lose all self-control in their presence).  :)


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An Alternative to Dryer Sheets

In an effort to reduce our use of things that we just use up, throw out, and re-purchase over and over again, I've been using this replacement for dryer sheets lately. 
All you need is a spray  bottle, hair conditioner, vinegar, and water.  You can make it in whatever quantity you like.  Just be sure to use the right ratio for the mix.  Mix conditioner, vinegar, and water at a ratio of 2:3:6.  I wanted to start with a small batch, so I used a 1/4 c. scoop and the ratio to mix up my first batch. 
(I would prefer to use a "green" hair conditioner but decided to use what I had on hand for now.  This is a hand-me-down bottle from Girl 1 who has now switched a more perm-friendly conditioner.)

To use the mix, just spritz (pretty heavily, I do about 10 squirts from my spray bottle) a washcloth or similar item that's going into the dryer from the wash.  That item that you're washing anyway then acts as the dryer sheet for that load.  I've tried this with my most static-prone items like my silky PJ pants and our fleece jackets and have had great results! 

I often feel like green cleaning alternatives take more time or effort than their store-bought counterparts, so I love that this is not the case here.  I can spritz a towel in about the same amount of time it takes to throw a dryer sheet in, and it takes about the same amount of time to mix up a new batch as it would to write "dryer sheets" down on my shopping list. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lenten Week 4: Act Justly

**First, the goats have now been listed on Craigslist.  If you know of anyone who may be interested in one or both of our little guys, please feel free to forward the links below:

This week's Lenten focus is to Act Justly.  This, of course, comes from Micah 6:8 where God tells us what He requires of us: "to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

I've heard this verse a lot. But, as a life-long church-goer,  I can't say that I've heard a lot of sermons on "justice."  Mostly, my experience with the term has been more to do with people getting their just desserts or some reference to our legal system.  What does God mean when he asks, no, requires us to "Act Justly"?

I guess the dictionary is as good a place as any to begin.  Just, the adjective, means "guided by truth, reason, equality, fairness."  Well, I definitely want to be like that.  I can think of justice in terms of circles within circles -- the innermost circle being those that I feel are closest to me and the outermost being that vast ocean of humanity that I will never encounter personally.  The innermost circle is my little family.  Am I fair in my treatment of my kids?  Are my expectations of them guided by reason?  Moving out a circle or two, how do I do justice in my community, church, extended family? 
The thing that may be the most challenging, though is thinking about those outermost circles.  If a pebble drops in the water of the innermost circle, do the ripples or waves not eventually reach the outermost circles as well?  Sometimes it's challenging to think in those terms, but I think that acting justly is very much about considering how the way I personally live is affecting my fellow man.  Are the decisions I'm making daily or the systems I'm a part of detrimental to people in the outermost circle -- people who I may never encounter?  

What I can't help but notice about the Bible verse, though,is the verb act.  This is not a call to read about justice or to be in favor of justice.  It is a call to do justice.   To move.  To act.   How do I do that? 

Honestly, this week's focus leaves me reeling a little bit.  I feel ill-equipped.  In the past Lenten weeks, I've had some concrete things that I've done during the week -- things that I can check off a list.  This week, though, -- a week that is all about doing -- I feel at a loss.  I'm struggling with coming up with ideas that are doing justice.  Help?

I wish I had more concrete things to do this week, but, alas, this is all I've got (for now):
1.  Make a list of Fair Trade shopping sites and make use of them when needed to purchase gifts and the like. 
2.  Learn more about how to "Act Justly" in my community.  One way I'll do this is by listening to Shane Claiborne's podcast on the subject (search iTunes to download it for free).
3.  Pray like this:  God, create in me a clean heart, a just heart -- one that is sensitive to injustice, unfairness, and inequality.  Give me eyes that I may see the parts of myself or my world that are unjust and create in me a desire to act out Your justice.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Meet Our Long-Awaited Star!

First, the excellent news:  In the wee hours of Sunday morning, Razz finally had her baby girl.  We've named her First Star!
Isn't she adorable?  She has her Momma's "fancy" ears.

Now, for the dramatic telling of the story . . .

While Honey romped around with her two little baby boys Thursday, Razz began to show early signs of labor, ranging from teeth grinding to fast-paced breathing to low grunting.  According to our books, this should go on no longer than 36 hours.  Thursday night, I "slept" with the baby monitor by the bed but got very little sleep as I jumped any time a goat shifted out in the shed.  My reading suggested that, eventually, early labor would progress into actual pushing that would take about 30 minutes to produce the first kid.  Any subsequent kids would be born within another 30 minutes.  Upset that I narrowly missed the birth of Honey's babies Thursday, I concocted a surefire plan not to miss seeing Razz give birth -- I would check on her every 30 minutes.  Surely with this plan, even if she pushed quickly and delivered a baby within a 30 minute window, I'd make it there in time to see the next one be born.  (And video it, so that I could share it with you).  I mean, she had to be having at least two kids.  I mean, look at how big she was!  She was much larger than Honey who had just delivered twins.  So, beginning Friday morning, I basically followed my 30 minute check-in routine.  And continued that all. day. long.  That night, I allowed myself some sleep and only went out to check on her about 4 times.  But, she didn't seem to be progressing much.  Saturday we had lots of great visitors to the farm, and as little kids romped around with the baby goats, Razz sat off to the side laboring away unproductively.

Saturday night, John and I alternated shifts, taking trips to the shed every 30 minutes to monitor Razz's progress, which she was finally making.  On my trip out at 5:00a.m., my flashlight beam across the field revealed Razz cleaning up her newborn baby!  And, she was big!  But, so was Razz still.  As Razz cleaned up her precious little one, she continued to contract and eventually passed the afterbirth (which can happen after each baby in multiple births).  Still, she contracted . . . and contracted . . . and contracted. 

According to our reading, if a doe contracts unproductively for more than 30 minutes, the baby may be breech and unable to make it through the birth canal, the effects of which are fatal for mother and baby alike if there is no intervention.  If the goatherd can reach inside the doe and help turn the baby and ease her out, all may not be lost.
So . . . yep.  You guessed it.  I donned that OB glove, lubed it up good, and eased my hand into my goat as John held her in a head lock.  It was not a pleasant experience for any of the three parties involved as a very surprised Razz slammed John's arm into the side of the shed.  I went in as far as I could (to my elbow) and was convinced that I was doing it wrong because I couldn't feel a baby.  I made John don a glove and give it a go because I just couldn't believe that she could still be so big, be contracting, and not have another baby in there.  John's search, however, turned up the same results.  Perhaps it was the trauma induced by this incident, but Razz soon quit contracting and began acting much more normally.  The things we do for our animals around here!

She seems to be fine now and is an excellent Momma.  I love to hear the "conversations" she and Star have with one another as they learn to recognize one another's calls.  Razz will be on a round of antibiotics as a preventative measure, which is a good idea anytime a goatherd has to, umm,  "intervene" during delivery.

Now, for some fun photos:  These brothers are so rambunctious and fun!  Here they are hopping around the field -- FC, on the right, is in mid-air!  I love watching them headbutt and wrestle each other -- too cute!

I used to think that a goat pile was about the cutest thing ever.  Then, I saw a baby goat pile and realized that that was maybe the cutest thing ever.  But, I stand corrected.  A baby goat/kitten pile -- THAT is the cutest thing ever!

Since boys only serve one purpose in a dairy herd and these boys can't be bred back to their own mommas and sisters, we will be trying to sell them.  If you know of someone intersted in ADGA registered bucklings, please direct them to us.  We plan to have these guys listed on both Craigslist and GoatSpot by sometime tomorrow.  First Star (we'll call her "Star"), however, will stay.  How could we not keep her?  She's the only daughter of Razz, our herd queen. And, the first girl born on our farm who will eventually become a part of our milking herd. 

**For those who are following my Lenten posts, I haven't forgotten.  I just wanted to get the goat update posted in a timely way.  Tomorrow, I will discuss the week's emphasis of Acting Justly.**

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Lots More Footsteps!

(**If you're looking for a goat update, skip to the end.**)

For this week's Lenten observance of caring for the earth, I ended up having to order the reusable baggies.  They're not in yet, so I can't really report on how that's going. 

I loved my use of  All I had to do was create a free account, then as unwanted catalogs came to our mailbox, I just logged on and entered the name of the catalog, source code, and our customer code.  The site generates a request to stop mailings.  It even sends me a follow-up email to let me know that the company has removed me from their mailing list.  Love it!

By far, the most significant effort this week, though, was reducing my use of the van.  I had hoped for warmer weather. We did have some beautiful, sunny days, but, oh, were they windy! 

I won't bore you with all the details, but Little Boy and I made good use of our little umbrella stroller this week.  I knew all the walking would be a challenge, but I was surprised how much the kids enjoyed it.  Little Boy was disappointed when on Thursday we had to get in the car for a trip to Ash Flat to pick up our Co-op food order, "But, Momma, the stroller is my favorite!"

On Monday, I found this little note in my pocket just after I'd enjoyed a nice, leisurely stroll with Girl 1 to her dance class.  On that walk, Girl 1 commented that "It's funny how you see things so differently when you're walking than when you're in the car."

Most days the girls rode the bus to and from school, making use of gas being expended anyway since the bus drives right past our house daily.  On Wednesday afternoon, though, the bus doesn't get home in time for me to get Girl 1 to her 3:30 dance class.  They all thought it was a fun adventure for me to "pick them up" from school on foot, walk them all to dance where we dropped off Girl 1, and then walk home. 

I loved the way walking slowed our days down a bit.  We had to plan ahead and be aware of the weather.  We had lots of time to talk about the things we saw along the way.  As Little Boy told me as we were parking the stroller on the porch at the end of a walk, "I can't wait for the girls to get home, and I can tell them that the birds with the red bellies is robins!"

All told, I walked 10 miles or so that I would've otherwise driven and combined several errands so that my overall miles driven were greatly reduced this week.  I'm hoping that as the weather warms, we'll be able to enjoy more walks like the ones we had this week. 

For those who are looking for an update on the goats, the little ones are doing well.  They're so adorable as they figure out how to eat and walk and jump.  They're still doing a lot of sleeping, though.  Sleeping is not something I've been doing much of.  I keep thinking that Razz is about to deliver, as she's been showing signs of early labor for about 2 days now.  Determined not to miss the birth, I "sleep" with the monitor by my bed, listening for any odd sounds.  Last night, I made 5 trips out to the shed to check on things.   Surely by Monday's post I'll have more baby pics to share and can finally get some sleep!

Friday, March 8, 2013

They're Here! They're Here! Our First Babies Are Here!

The day started normal enough.   Girl 1 woke up with a low grade fever and got to stay home from school.  John went about his morning chores, we put Girl 2 on the bus to school, then Girl 1, Little Boy, and I headed to Cherokee Village to pick up our food co-op order.  We were gone about 2 hours.  When we got back, we had two additional members of our backyard herd! 
These adorable brothers are Honey's very first kiddos!

Since the latest daily OB exams had indicated that we had entered the "anytime" phase of this thing, I'd been checking in on the goats pretty frequently, which is what I did as soon as I got home from our errand.  Honey had one baby all cleaned up and tucked away in the corner and was just cleaning up her second little one.  We have the baby monitor set up in the goat barn, so I knew Girl 1 would hear me when I started yelling, "Babies!  Babies!  Call Daddy!" 
She got him on the phone, we told him the news, and he rushed home to deal with the after-birth chores.  Oh, wait, no.  That's what I thought was going to happen.  Instead, he informed me that he was in a meeting he couldn't get out of and would be home when he could.  Apparently, he had complete confidence that I could take care of this.  And, so I did!

With Girl 1 as my assistant and Little Boy entirely underfoot, we went methodically (and amazingly without freaking out) through the "snip, dip, strip, and sip" procedures I'd so carefully studied up on in preparation for this big moment. 

I snipped the umbilical cords; dipped the remaining nubs in iodine, stripped Honey's teats to be sure that her colostrum was in and ready to go, and got the babies to sip their first meal.  Actually, the darker baby was really having a hard time standing (we're not too worried -- apparently, it can take 'em awhile to get their legs figured out), so I had to give him some colostrum by syringe to be sure that he got it within the recommended first two hours after birth. 

It was such a beautiful day!  Here are Momma and babies enjoying an afternoon nap in the sun.
The kitties were really intrigued by the new arrivals.

When Girl 2 got off the bus at the end of the driveway, Little Boy  was shouting "WE GOT BABIES!  WE GOT BABIES!"  Girl 2 high-tailed it to the backyard, running right through the backyard gate rather than through the house, backpack in tow.  Her excitement was contagious, and we all ran after her.

Honey is an excellent mother so far.

Razz, our other expectant momma, started showing signs of early labor late yesterday afternoon.  She was grinding her teeth with the pain of contractions but loving this brushing!  Girl 1 was distraught upon hearing that Razz was in pain:  "Are people ever in pain when they have babies?"  ;)

If I'm being honest, there are days when I question what we're doing here.  Surely we all have days like that.  "This is a lot of work.  Is it worth it?"  Today, though, was not one of those days.  Seeing those babies, seeing Honey instinctively taking care, seeing my own kids' excitement at this miracle made it all so worth it. It was indeed a good day to be living on our little farm.

Oh, and visitors welcome anytime!  The photos really don't do them justice.  :)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Look at Convenience Foods

We all want things to be easy.  The problem, when it comes to food, though, is that typically the easier a food is, the more processed it is . . . and the more processed it is, the more unknown ingredients it contains.  Generally speaking, trying to stick to natural ingredients that have names we recognize is a good idea. 

There once was a time when little was convenient.  Convenience just wasn't a choice homesteaders of the past had.  Now, though, we have to look at the variables of our time, our money, and our health and make decisions accordingly.  And, one person's "convenience" food may not be the same as the next person's. (I did recently discover that our grocer store sells pre-shelled, hard boiled eggs in nifty little 4 packs.)

Let us consider, for example, the pancake.

I suppose the ultimate in convenience would be a trip to IHOP, where someone else is left to clean up the sticky countertops.

Short of that, though, are these.
(Yes, I did snap this photo in the freezer section of the grocery store.  Yes, I got a couple of weird looks.)

What cracks me up most about these is the "8 Individually Wrapped Packages." 

Let's assume, that we have the time and resources and inclination to make our own pancakes.  Still, there are various levels of convenience involved.  Are you going to reach for a box of Bisquik?  I did for years and years.  Or, will you throw together your own mix of baking powder, flour, milk, and egg?
That's the level of convenience we now go with.  Who knew it was so easy to mix up a batch of pancakes?  Still, some crazies might argue that it's still "convenient" because I don't grind my own flour. (If you're laughing, you  must not have spent much time around hard-core homesteaders on the blog-o-sphere.  They have a way of making me feel lazy on even my most industrous day.)

Just so that you don't think I stick exclusively to the more time-consuming route, here's an example of a convenience food that I'll defend.  We love our grapefruit around here.  I typically buy 2 5lb. bags per week for our morning juices.  I've also started buying jugs of this stuff for snacking.  (My grocery checker may be starting to wonder whether there's some new way of manufacturing meth that involves grapefruit.) 
This little heavenly jug contains the perfectly prepped wedges of 10 grapefruit.  Do you know how much time it would take to do that by hand?  Also, like I'm someone from an episode of Hoarders, I'm stockpiling the used jugs.  They'll make great cannisters in the pantry for beans, rice, and such.

All of this to say, when the grocery list includes items that are more processed or contain ingredients that I can't pronounce or that wouldn't fit on a notecard if I tried to write them all out, I find myself wondering "could I make a version of this myself that would be better for us?"  My experience with pancakes and other things has given me the confidence to ask this question.  And, with the power of the internet and, specifically, Pinterest :) on our side, how can we fail?

Also, I look for other ways to create convenience.  We all know that some days are busier than others.  On a day when I have more time, I could mix together all the dry ingredients needed for multiple batches of pancakes and store it in the pantry, ready to be used just like Bisquik.  Or, when I've made a few too many pancakes, I could lay the cakes out on a baking sheet to freeze individually before stacking them up and throwing them into a freezer bag (or several -- hey, I could even wrap them in "8 Individually Wrapped Packages"!)

If you're interested, here's the recipe I've been using for pancakes lately:

1.5 c. flour
2 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1.25-1.5 c. of milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbs. vegetable oil