Friday, November 17, 2017

Introducing Tuscan

We recently had another little stray show up around here...just started hanging out like he always belonged. :)

He showed himself to be a very friendly one, and was almost certainly a domestic for someone at some point.

We decided to take him in and call him Tuscan, because of his yellow coloring:

Our New Cat Tuscan


True cat form:

Tuscan Sprawled Out Sleeping


He's all boy-cat, follows me around a lot, and pretty much runs the outside. :) He and William don't quite get along yet, and Mimi is still afraid of him, and he chases her, but they all do appear to be getting a little used to each other. We put him in the barn at night, and he actually doesn't seem to mind, and I really think he's helping keep down the mice population in there, earning his keep! :)


He sometimes likes to join Sue in the goat field while she is milking...we think he might have ulterior motives... :)

Tuscan Drinking Fresh Goat Milk


And here he is camped out on the cistern roof!

Tuscan Laying on Cistern Roof


And here is a quick video of him, including a few moments of he and William around each other:




We're thankful for the little addition to the homestead, and for the help in mice catching the Lord has granted us through him!

-- David

Friday, November 10, 2017

Preserving Okra in Cheap Apple Cider Vinegar

Having lived in Texas over ten years now I can see why okra is so popular in the South. In our personal experience with hot Texas summers, we have found that okra is one of those crops that thumbs its nose at the hot, sweltering Texas sun and says "Come on, is that the best you got?" It is an extremely prolific, heat/drought tolerant crop that has done well for us every time we have planted it so far, thank the Lord.

This has presented a problem, albeit a good problem, for me in terms of the best way to capture and preserve it. You can certainly pressure can it but that is not our preference because we like to preserve it with all of its nutrients and freshness. Okra is a nutrient powerhouse, so we are excited and very motivated to incorporate it into our diets.

The last couple of years I cut it up and lacto-fermented it in a salt brine but found I didn't prefer it for a couple of reasons. For those of you who don't know, okra has this "snotty", "mucusy" stuff inside each pod that is really healthy and beneficial but kind of gross. And, for some reason, I still haven't nailed the salt brine recipe and have had a lot of hits and misses.

Thankfully, some time last year my friend and neighbor, Shannon, and I were talking about okra and she mentioned lacto-fermenting it leaving the okra pod in tact and not cutting it up. I was very excited when she mentioned that and was eager to try it. First of all, it meant a lot less prep time and also, maybe a reduction of the "snot" factor.

Fast forward to mid-summer and our okra plants were starting to produce each day. If you've ever grown okra, you know that it grows measurably every day. You could probably sit and literally watch it grow if you had the time. At first, I cut them up and put them fresh in our salads each night, which is crunchy and delicious, by the way, and the "snotty" factor is virtually non-existent in fresh, cold okra. But then the floodgates opened and a big okra surplus started to mount up. I remembered I had preserved garlic cloves in apple cider vinegar and really liked the flavor so I decided to do the same with okra. I went out and bought a really cheap jug of apple cider vinegar at the store and off I went!

Here is our beeeeeautiful okra, probably just one days worth:

Okra in a Bowl


So I quickly rinse them and, it's not necessary but I like to cut off the stems so they fit in the jars better:

Cutting Ends Off of Okra


Then I just shove them in the jars however they will fit:

Putting Whole Okra in Jars

Jars of Whole Okra


You can usually get a gallon jug of cheap apple cider vinegar for under three dollars. Even though it is not organic with "the mother" in it (a colony of beneficial bacteria promoting good gut health), cheap apple cider vinegar is still a great preservation vehicle and a pre-biotic, which means it feeds probiotics. So it's still a great way to preserve. It also provides a really nice pickling-like taste:

Apple Cider Vinegar for Preserving Okra


I just pour in the apple cider vinegar and leave about 1" space at the top:

Pouring Apple Cider Vinegar into Jars of Okra


A very important step that I had forgotten but a friend reminded me, is placing in the jars something that contains tannin. This keeps the okra nice and crunchy, where it would otherwise become soft and mushy over time. Thankfully, we have oak and mesquite trees right outside our house, so I just place a few leaves of one or the other in each jar.

Another step worth noting is that you may find you need to burp your jars for the first few days to release the buildup of any CO2 (carbon dioxide) gases. But since you are not waiting for an official fermenting process, you can eat the pods as soon as you like!

Jars of Preserved Okra


All in all, we preserved over 50 quarts of okra this garden season, all thanks to God for bringing the increase! I went ahead and numbered each jar so we can be sure to eat the oldest ones first. Since the pickle taste can be pretty tangy, I quickly rinse the pods before I put them in salads, etc., and it leaves a really nice pickled okra taste. You may wish to add in any other spices/flavors to customize your preserved okra to your liking. This way of preserving should keep for many months, although your experience may vary.

Jars of Preserved Okra Marked for Organization


We are extremely thankful to God for His bountiful okra harvest and a very quick and simple way to preserve it!

Susan

Friday, November 3, 2017

Summer Kitchen - Update III - External Siding, Community Work Day & Acorns

This past Wednesday was our first-Wednesday community work day, and this month it was at our place. The men worked on our summer kitchen, and the women and children washed house windows, shelled pecans, collected acorns, and sewed aprons and dresses!


Summer Kitchen External Siding

It has been 6 years since our last summer kitchen update. Wow!

Over the years I have done a decent amount of the internal siding, which you can see here:

Summer Kitchen Internal Siding

More Summer Kitchen Internal Siding


You can see what the mice have done to the insulation at the top:

Still More Summer Kitchen Internal Siding


And more here. We have traps in there, but they still do the damage:

Still More Summer Kitchen Internal Siding


Even with some work on the internal siding, the external siding has been sitting unfinished, with just the OSB, for 9 years, shown in this blog update!

And then, as one might imagine, the weather has taken its toll on it. With the Lord graciously granting resources to do so, we were able to do some work on the north side with the men helping...

Here is with the old siding off:

Summer Kitchen North External Wall Removed


The mice have been busy! :)

Insulation Removed by Mice


Here is removing calked windows. This worked pretty well, thankfully! (I have had a previously unsuccessful attempt before :) )

Removing Summer Kitchen Window


Bending the outside away was the best approach:

More of Removing Summer Kitchen Window


Here's with the first window out and first new OSB board in place:

Summer Kitchen Window Removed, First OSB in Place


And then putting the first window back:

Summer Kitchen First Window Installed Back


Here's with some of the tar paper up:

Summer Kitchen First Row of Tar Paper


And then all the windows and boards in place:

Summer Kitchen All Windows & OSB in Place


Here's with tar paper on the entire side:

Summer Kitchen Tar Paper on Entire Wall


And finally, with a couple of the external siding boards in place, which is how far we got on this work day:

Summer Kitchen Two External Siding Boards in Place


Excellent! Thanks to the guys for all of the help!


Acorns

While the fellows were working on the summer kitchen, the ladies helped shell pecans and make some aprons and a dress for Sue, and the children washed house windows and collected acorns for our pig!

Here are buckets of acorns they collected!

Buckets of Acorns


Thanks to the ladies and children for all of their help too!


We are very grateful to the Lord for granting us the opportunity to be a part of the fellowship! We always pray we love Him in part by loving and serving each other, and we thank the folks here again for all of their help and willingness to serve!

-- David

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Critter Corner: RafterBNB for Barn Swallows & Tiny, the Orphan

Rafter Nest

Barn swallows are common around here, and this year we had some build a nest on the vertical side of one of the porch rafters just outside the front door of our house!

They use mud and the like, and just make it into the shape of a half-funnel. The first attempt collapsed on them, but the second one was successful, and here is a video of that and some of the new little ones they hatched out!




Tiny, the Orphan Barn Swallow

One morning in the barn, I heard cheeping, like a baby bird, and eventually tracked it down to a large mineral tub. Sure enough, there was a little barn swallow in there! Sort of above at the top of the barn in that area are barn swallow nests from previous years, but I hadn't seen any action up there and didn't think I could put it back. So, I decided to give it a go and take it in and see if we couldn't raise the little thing. I called it Tiny...

In studying on how to try to take care of them, they apparently need high-protein feed, like bugs and worms, or turkey starter, which is higher in protein than chicken starter. Well, we had chick starter, so I thought I would use that. I also learned you don't give them water directly (like I try in the video below) and that they get their liquid from the mush the mama usually gives them. And, they need to be warm, so I would use a rock heated on the stove in the box I had Tiny in, or one next to the box in the storage cabinet I put it in at night.

Here's a video of trying to care for little Tiny. We were doing fairly well, and went 11 days, but as you'll see in the video, it only documents a couple early days, because the morning of the 12th day, Tiny had died. I was sad. It had not seemed to have the normal energy the day before, although seemed to be keeping up, but apparently something was still not right. I thought the fact we made it all that time was a good indicator it might make it all the way, but it wasn't meant to be. Perhaps the protein level wasn't enough, and we did read that that could be a problem.

Bye Tiny...I will have good memories of our time together...




Seeing God's creation in action is a blessing, and how He takes care of them, even in the means He uses, like parents with the built-in instinct to do it just right to have successful children.

We pray for God's protection and care, in all things spiritual and temporal, and look to Him alone for those, as it exists in Him as God to do it just right to have successful children!

-- David

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Community Singing - October 2017

Once again, this past Lord's day, God graciously granted we be able to gather together to sing to Him, in prayer and praise, the Psalms from the psalter we use! And we recorded them as we try to every so often, so we can learn them better, and so they might help others to as well. Here are the latest:

(If you would like to save any of the files locally to your computer, you can right click on Download and click Save As in the popup menu.)

Psalms 60A-65B


Previous Psalms singings:

Psalms 1A-12B (minus 4B)

Psalms 4B & 13-18L

Psalms 19A-22E

Psalms 22F-24C

Psalms 25A-27F

Psalms 28A-31G

Psalms 32A-34D

Psalms 35A-37F

Psalms 38B-40F

Psalms 41A-44F

Psalms 45A-49C

Psalms 50A-53

Psalms 54A-59B



As always, we pray the Lord glorify Himself through these, and that they be prayers and praises from our hearts!

-- David

Monday, October 9, 2017

David's Digest: Distance & Difference

I believe it is all too easy to forget who God really is and become too familiar with Him. And we can end up thinking that God is like us. And although the Bible refers to Him as a friend of Christians, and that man was originally made in His image, which is what is restored, over time and finally in heaven, in those He saves, we are quite far and quite different from Him, a gap that is impossible to overcome in and of ourselves.

However, thanks be to God for making a Way to close on those, which is through Christ! The fact that it took a mediator at all, and that it took Christ -- God taking on the nature of man to Himself -- to accomplish this, should evidence the distance and difference between God and man.

Puritan Thomas Manton discusses this in his works vol xviii, sermon upon 1 Cor viii 6. You can read the entire sermon here.

I believe it is important to understand this distance and difference, to put us in our proper perspective to ourselves, so we have a proper one of God -- that in essence He is infinitely far and different from us; to elevate Christ that much more in the great love and condescension of God toward us; and to give us great hope and love returned, that God, who is so far and different, would bother to deal with sinners thus.

From Thomas Manton:

I. The necessity of a mediator in this lapsed and fallen estate of mankind. Two things infer and enforce this necessity -- distance and
difference. Distance by reason of impurity, and difference by reason of enmity; both these occur in the case between God and men. God
is a God of glorious majesty, and we are poor creatures. God is an holy God, a God of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and we are sinful creatures.
As creatures, we are unworthy of immediate access to God; as lapsed, and under the guilt of sin and desert of punishment, and unable to deliver ourselves, we cannot draw nigh to him with any comfort.

1. Our distance, which is so great that it is a condescension for God to take notice that there are such creatures in the world: Ps. cxiii. 6, 'Who humbleth himself to behold the things which are in heaven and earth.' The excellency and majesty of God is so great that either angels or men are unworthy to approach his presence. Now, as inferior and mean people dare not approach the presence of a great prince but by some powerful friend and intercessor at court, so our distance produceth our fears and estrangedness, and backwardness to draw nigh unto God, and so hindereth our love and confidence in him. Well, then, to depend upon one so far above us, that he will take notice of us, take care of us, relieving us in our necessities and straits, and help us out of all our miseries, and finally save us, requireth a mediator; one that is more near and dear to God than we are, which can be no other than Jesus Christ, as I shall show by-and-by. When a sinner looketh only at God as in himself, he is confounded and amazed, as quite out of the reach of his commerce.

2. Difference. A mediator is chiefly one used between disagreeing parties: Gal. iii. 20, 'Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.' There must be two parties, and usually two differing parties. There is God angry, and man guilty. Conscience of guilt presents God terrible, and taketh away all confidence from the guilty sinner, so that of ourselves we cannot approach in a friendly manner to an offended and provoked God: Heb. xii. 29, 'For our God is a consuming fire;' and 'Who can dwell with devouring burnings?' Isa. xxxiii. 14. Who shall interpose and stand between God and us, the power of his wrath, and our weakness and obnoxiousness [liableness] to his righteous vengeance.

II. That none but Christ is fit for this high office, that, though God be high, and just, and holy, yet poor creatures and sinners may have access to him. A mediator must be one that can take off the distance, and compromise the difference between us and God: 'that there were,' saith Job, 'a day's-man between us, that might lay his hands upon both!' Job ix, 33. Now, considering this, Jesus Christ is the only fit interposing party; therefore he is called 'the Mediator of the new covenant,' Heb. xii. 24, 'And to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant,' and 'The Mediator of a better covenant,' Heb. viii. 6.

1. As to the distance; so in his person he is God-man. Our mediator must be one in whom God doth condescend to man, and by whom man may be encouraged to ascend to God. Now in Christ God is nearer to man than he was before, and so we may have more familiar thoughts of God. The pure deity is at so vast a distance from us while we are in the flesh, that we are amazed and confounded, cannot imagine that he should look after us, concern himself in us and our affairs, love us, show us his free grace and favour. Now it is a mighty help to think of God manifested in our flesh, 1 Tim. iii. 16; 'The Word made flesh,' John i. 14. So that while we are here in the flesh, yet we may have commerce with God. It is a mighty encouragement to consider how near God is come to us in Christ, and how he hath taken the human nature into his own person; for surely he will not hide himself from his own flesh, Isa. Iviii. 7. He came down into our flesh that he might be man, and familiar with man. This wonderfully reconcileth the heart of man to God, and maketh the thoughts of him comfortable and acceptable to us, so that we may encourage ourselves in free access to God.

2. As the person of the Redeemer, so his work; which is to take away the difference and quarrel between us and God. To understand this, observe, that the mediation between the two differing parties must be carried on so that God, who is the supreme and offended party, may be satisfied. Now God stood upon these terms that the honour of his governing justice should be secured: Rom. iii. 25, 'Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.' And that the repentance and reformation of sinful man should be carried on: Acts v. 31, 'Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a prince and saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins.' These must be done, otherwise man must lie under his eternal displeasure. If the one be done and not the other done, no reconciliation can ensue. Therefore we must not look to Christ's mediation with God so as to overlook his work with man, nor so look to his work with man as to overlook his mediation with God: Heb. iii. 1, 'Consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, Jesus Christ.' We have both here. The work of an apostle lieth with men; the work of an high priest with God. He hath an office with God and man, and both are necessary to bring about our salvation. And Christ cannot be a complete Saviour without doing both. To be barely a prophet would not serve the turn, but he must be a priest to satisfy God's justice also by the merit of his sacrifice. In short, his work with God is that of a priest; his work with man is that of a prophet and king.

[1.] His work as a priest is to pacify God's wrath, procure his grace, love, and favour for us; and this he doth under two relations — as a sponsor and intercessor.

(1.) As a sponsor and surety. He was the surety of a better testament: Heb. vii. 22, 'By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament' So -

(1st.) By way of satisfaction, he undertook something to be paid and performed for us. He undertaketh to satisfy God's justice by the sacrifice of himself, and so make way for his mercy on easy terms. The pacifying of God's justice was a great part of his mediation: Heb. ix. 15, 'For this cause he is the Mediator of the new testament, that, by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance;' that is, that penitent and believing sinners might be acquitted from the curse due to them by the first covenant, and so made capable of eternal life. What they owe he hath paid.

(2d.) By way of caution, undertaking for those whom he reconciled to God that they shall perform what God requireth of them in the new covenant. Having purchased the Spirit, he hath enabled them to repent, and believe, and mortify and crucify the flesh, and obey the gospel: Rom. vi. 6, 'Knowing that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.'

(2.) As an intercessor. He is in heaven dealing with God in our behalf. He hath not cast off his relation or affection to his people upon his advancement: Heb. viii. 2, 'A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.' In all his glory he is the church's agent, appearing for us as our attorney in court, Heb. ix. 24; pleading for us, and answering all accusations as our advocate: 1 John ii. 1, 'And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.' And maintaining a correspondency between us and God, as an ambassador between two states, promoting our desires and prayers: Rev. viii. 3, 'And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.' And obtaining all necessary graces for us.

[2.] His work with men, as a prophet and king.

(1.) As a prophet, and so as a messenger of the covenant, Mal. iii. 11. He showeth us the way how we may be reconciled with God, persuading us also to be so reconciled to God. For we are ignorant and obstinate, loath to part with sin and submit to God's terms; therefore he revealeth, and persuadeth us to accept, the conditions of the new covenant, and to cast away all our rebellion against God, and enter into his peace: 2 Cor. v. 20, 'Now then we are ambassadors for Christ; as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.' They plead in his name, and by virtue of his power.

(2.) As a king and lord; so he maketh these terms part of the new law for the remedying of lapsed mankind: Heb. v. 8, 'Though he were a son, yet he learned obedience by the things he suffered.' And not only so, but he subdueth us to himself,' Luke xi. 21; by strong hand rescueth us out of the power of the devil, and giveth us grace to serve him acceptably, Heb. xii. 28; and taketh us into his care, and ruleth us and protecteth us, till we enter into everlasting life. His lordship is a great part of his mediation.

Thanks be to God for His great condescension, love, mercies and graces! May Christ increase, and we decrease, and may we worship the Lord forever for who He is and what He has done!

-- David

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Providence's Perpetuation Provisions: Chicken Hatchings of 2017 6th-8th

The Lord graciously granted another three chicken hatchings of 2017, the 6th, 7th and 8th!

Here's group 6. I believe the hen hatched out 8:

2017 6th Group of Chicken Hatchlings


In this group, there was one that had trouble with one of its legs, and would stick it out straight back -- you can get a good look at it how it was in the video below. Well, in our experience, a good way to try to help with that is to put binders on its legs, where you use a thin piece of duct tape and wrap each end around each leg, which helps keep the legs together, with the idea that the good leg will help guide the bad one into what it's supposed to do correctly (like us being yoked to Christ! Matt. 11:29 - "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.").

At first, it was too small for the good leg to overpower the bad one, but as the good leg strengthened, I was able to attach the binder, and it did seem to help. You can see the binders on it in the video as well.

Today, she (which is what it appears it turned out to be) is still going, and able to get around fairly well, which we also show in the video.


And then, here is group 7. The mama was a hatchling from I believe a couple of years ago, and she originally hatched out 11. But...

I can't remember exactly how this went, one day I did a count, and only saw 10, but thought perhaps I had just miscounted originally. Some time later, I walked in, and there was one dead, and only 7 alive, which means another 2 were missing. What was going on? I looked around in the summer kitchen pantry there, and sure enough, I found a snake in the corner, picked it up, and there was a chick-sized lump in its belly. Arg! And bummer. I don't know how it got in there, as I had been purposefully keeping the main doors of the summer kitchen closed just because of this snake issue (we've had trouble like that before) -- maybe it got in through a small hole in external OSB, but it seems it would have had to do that when it was smaller.

Anyway, after getting the snake out of there, the other 7 are still going strong!

2017 7th Group of Chicken Hatchlings


And this is group 8. 6 or 7 hatched out, 1 or 2 died, but the other 5 are still also doing well!

2017 8th Group of Chicken Hatchlings


And here is a video of all 3 groups:




Once again, we are very grateful to the Lord for granting these provisions, and for His mercy on the ones He allowed us to keep. They are all His chickens to do with as He pleases, and we are just thankful He has allowed us any. May they be used for His glory!

-- David