Sunday, December 26, 2010

That's Berry Nice!

Blackberry BushIt was about 25 degrees outside this morning, so I thought no better time to think of the warmth of the sun and our trip to a blackberry farm last Spring!


Most of us from our community one day drove in a caravan to a local pick-your-own blackberry farm in Cottonwood, TX. Neither Dave nor I had ever been berry picking of any kind before, so it was a new experience for each of us. Here are some of our community leisurely strolling down one of the rows picking blackberries as they go:

Community Folks Picking Blackberries


I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxing it was. Some of the bushes, however, didn't relinquish their berries without brandishing their thorny weapons; but I prevailed and took the valued treasure with just a little blood shed (ouch!) But it was well worth it: :)

Susan Picking Blackberries


After a couple of hours, we had filled our buckets; and the farm owner and his wife weighed our haul and charged a very reasonable fee. Apparently, they also open their farm at other harvest times (eg. pecans, black-eyed peas, other fruit trees, etc.), so we look forward to perhaps returning again:

Buckets of Picked Blackberries


Afterward, many of us stopped at the farmer's little picnic area and had a nice time of food and fellowship in the cool shade:

Blackberry Farm Picnic Area


When we returned home from our lovely outing, reality set in; and it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea how to make anything from berries; and we would probably get sick if we tried to eat them all before they went bad. Dave recommended doing something with them in the solar food dryer; and sometime just previously to that, one of our neighbors had suggested making fruit leather. Capital ideas!! So I did a little research online and gave fruit leather a try. First, I pureed some blackberries:

Pureed Blackberries


Then I poured the pureed mixture onto two sheets of waxed paper and shaped it into a thin layer on each sheet:

Blackberry Fruit Leather on Wax Paper


Then I placed the sheets out in the solar food dryer:

Blackberry Fruit Leather on Solar Food Dryer


I can't remember exactly how long it took but not long (a matter of a couple of days in the hot sun), and the consistency of the blackberries was a bit sticky but dried where I was able to peel it off of the sheet. I then broke it up into small pieces to store in glass jars. It is December now, and I ate a piece yesterday that tasted fresh just like when I first stored it!

Removing Dried Blackberry Fruit Leather from Wax Paper


Then I took the remainder of the berries we hadn't eaten or dried and followed a simple blackberry syrup recipe using very little sugar:

Simmering Blackberry Syrup


I was able to make several pints, and went ahead and pressure canned it (I forgot about the water bath option because I'm so used to pressure canning - oh, well :) ). But it turned out fine anyway:

Pint Jars of Canned Blackberry Syrup


And we were able to have it on our whole wheat pancakes soon after. Delicious, and what a healthy change from the "faux" maple syrup sold in stores these days. It was more of a topping than a syrup but still delicious:

Pancakes with Blackberry Syrup


There is one thing I would do differently in retrospect. I was just trying to go the easiest and quickest route, and I didn't take time to extract the seeds. The fruit leather and syrup taste fine but are obviously a bit "crunchy." So I would definitely recommend removing the seeds; and I plan to do it next time, Lord willing. But we are thankful for such a wonderful opportunity to capture and learn to preserve more of God's harvest bounty.

Susan

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fred and Wilma, and New Chicks

Just wanted to give a quick animal update on some of the new animals here at the homestead:


Pigs

In exchange for taking care of the Bunker's boar Wilbur for an extended period of time, we were given one of their males to be the mate of the one piglet we kept out of the last litter of piglets the Lord granted out of Wilbur and Missy, our gilt. We kept the smallest female (in hopes of having her and her offspring of more manageable size: in just dealing with, and in feeding and butchering them), who was also quite feisty -- she never had a problem getting in to suckle amongst the rest of the larger piglets.

And so, in honor of her sire Wilbur, we decided to call her Wilma. And given that, we're calling the male Fred. In this picture, Fred is on the left, and Wilma is on the right. If you'll notice from the above piglet blog post, Wilma looks just like here "daddy" too:

Duroc Boar Fred and Gilt Wilma


How romantical!

Duroc Boar Fred and Gilt Wilma Lounging Together


New Chicks

Also, we were able to find a local man who inherited an egg incubator and has been hatching out and selling bunches of chicks. We bought 20 from him and have kept them in the mini chicken tractor until they're ready to run around the chicken pen area (which is our staging area for the main chicken tractor coop). They are all still alive, with thanks to God.

And here they are:




As always, we are grateful to the Lord for allowing us these provisions; and we pray they are all productive resources for the homestead and community.

-- David

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Great Black-Eyed Pea Adventure

Our neighbor, Mr. Bunker, planted his large field (about 5 acres) in black-eyed peas this past Spring. It was no small amount to purchase the seed and pay to have the ground plowed and planted. He had every right to keep it all to himself for his family and to have a cash crop. Instead, he graciously opened up the field to our community to come and tend it and reap its harvest together along with his family. We greatly appreciated his offer and spent many hours over several weeks in the Summer sun weeding and then picking the beans when they grew to maturity. It was a great opportunity for our community to learn what it means to come together for a common cause and share God's bounty as a group. It was also the first major crop for the community to cultivate, so this was a new experience on multiple levels.

I learned many things through the experience. The women and children devoted several community work days towards weeding and tending the field, which turned out to be rich times of work, fellowship and getting to know each other better. Working in the field introduced me to the joys of blisters from the Blister Beetle; and I received my first wasp sting, not to mention the potent burning sting of the Stinging Nettle plant. It also forced me personally to come out of my own little homestead world to focus on a larger cause, and required additional discipline to go out into the field even when I didn't "feel" like it or when I was really busy with other things.

The Lord did a little weeding of my own heart during this process as well. The Bible says we are to mortify (kill) the flesh (Rom 8:1-13), the carnal (non-spiritual) man of sin, which means we need to examine ourselves for sins of the flesh. At times when I was tired or really hot and sweaty wanting to quit, I had to reel myself back in and remember to be thankful for this opportunity and provision, and to work for Christ's sake and as unto Him and nobody else. Just as with God's grace, this provision was being offered undeserved as a gift; but I still had to beat down the flesh and submit myself to what was required to persevere to the end (the harvest). The field was so big it felt very overwhelming at times, when the weeds were growing so fast it was impossible to keep up with them. I could usually only get through one half to one row in a one to two hour time period. During the times when it was just me in that big field, my flesh would say, "It's just too big. You're not making a bit of difference. The weeds are going to take over this field, and there won't be any beans left to harvest." It was easy to forget that other members in the community were out there at different times doing the same thing, and we were all in it together. I also found myself at times to be even a little resentful that the entire community couldn't put in more time and were jeopardizing the crop and some deserved more than others because of the different investments of time. The Lord had to remind me (strongly) that this was a REALLY good opportunity to step outside of myself and practice meekness and selflessness. I had to repent of that and remember it was not for myself but for the good of the community. I was saddened and surprised at how quickly my flesh had wanted to take over my spirit.

When it came time to harvest, there was plenty for everyone; and I learned the beans that weren't picked could be turned back into the soil to nourish it. So no part of the whole process was wasted -- another reminder that even when I don't see the big picture, God does, and is in control and all knowing of every aspect of the situation. I believe the spiritual weeding of my heart truly paralleled the physical, and I praise the Lord for His patience with me to teach me these things. It was a valuable lesson in so many areas of my life, and I'm grateful to Mr. Bunker for his personal sacrifice in order for our community to grow spiritually and physically on individual and corporate levels.

I had not eaten black-eyed peas much growing up in California; it seems like more of a southern food. But I am now sold on growing them to harvest and preserve. Did you know it is a three-for-one crop: in that the first harvest produces long, tasty green beans; the second when they are a little dry, the moist bean could be shelled and preserved; and then at the end of the harvest when the bean pods have all dried up, you can go through again and pick the dried pods to shell and keep the black-eyed peas as a dried bean until you're ready to cook them, or use them to re-plant. Wow!

Here are a couple of five-gallon buckets from the first green bean stage harvest:

Black-Eyed Pea Green Beans


I was able to pressure can over 20 quarts:

Canned Black-Eyed Pea Green Beans


And here are the dried beans we harvested. It doesn't look like much, but this represents a lot of food for the two of us:

Dried Black-Eyed Peas in Jars


We thank the Lord again for His direct spiritual and physical provisions and lessons from the experience of this first community crop. I hope I will have grown in spiritual maturity the next time, Lord willing, and pray for God's blessing on Mr. Bunker and his family for their sacrifice and love for the community.

Susan

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tough Tractorin'

One thing we've lacked in our plowing "arsenal" is something with which to deep plow. In trying to sell some of our cows, Mr. Bunker came across a fellow who wanted to trade a large chisel plow for some cattle; and Mr. Bunker forwarded the information to me, as he wasn't interested. I took a look at it, and it seemed to be a pretty nice plow, and one that would suit our needs well. I set up the deal with the owner, he came and got his cattle from us, and I went out to his place, about 190 miles away, with Mr. Bunker's flatbed trailer to get the plow.

Well, when I got there, I found out just how big and heavy it was. The owner had to use a front loader to get it on, and we had to remove the wheels for it to fit. Here are a couple of pictures of the plow:

Side View of 9 Point Chisel Plow
Corner View of 9 Point Chisel Plow


When I got back, six of us men here tried to lift it enough to slide it off the back of the flatbed trailer, but to no avail: it was very heavy. In fact, our neighbor Homer graciously came and lifted it off with the plow chained to his big John Deere tractor's front loader.

I had to put different tires on the plow, as they had been replaced with ones that were too wide; but one of the local tire shops traded me straight across for ones that would fit, except for the typical mounting fee. I also had to replace one of the hydraulic hoses; but once that was done, I was all set. I even tried a small test plowing to see if it would work, and everything worked great. I was now ready to finally tear up some of the land around here that hadn't been plowed in many years, to help with our crops and any other land cultivation we might endeavor upon!


Tearing It Up

The big day came where I was planning on plowing some of Mr. Bunker's land; and then I was going to do our inner area where our goat pens and barn are, in preparation for planting a Winter crop (wheat, oats, or something). I headed up to Mr. Bunker's and started in. The ground was quite hard, especially in this one area, even to where the rear wheels of the tractor were spinning in the ground; and I sometimes had to lift the plow out of the ground to be able to continue plowing. I thought though, "This Farmall 806 has 94 horse power, and it's not like I'm dragging a 24 foot wide disk plow behind me...I should be able to just barrel through this ground. What I need is more power!" And so I throttled up and plowed on, waiting to see how our tractor would handle its first real plowing test (I've disked fields with a small tandem disk plow, but I've not really done anything that has ever really strained the tractor).

It was doing pretty well until I got to that difficult part again. It stopped the tractor again, but I thought I'd see if it would "bull" through. Well, it did -- right through the right rear axle. I heard a loud pop, stopped for a second, tried to go forward again, and the rear wheel started to cave in on the cab area. Uh oh. I hopped off the tractor to take a look. The axle casing was cracked wide open, fluids were coming out, and the axle shaft itself had sheered like a sheer bolt.

Here you can see the wheel angled in:

Rear Wheel on Broken Axle Tilted in on Farmall 806 Tractor


I can imagine the look on my face at that moment, as I believe I was in a bit of a state of shock. I couldn't believe what had happened. I sort of just went and set on the front tire of the tractor, kind of dumbfounded. This was major mess-up, and I figured that I had just totaled our tractor.

I was pleased though that it appears the Lord has worked on my heart in relation to things that "happen" to us, in granting more of a trust in His sovereignty and perfect will, as my initial reactions were, at a minimum, better than they almost certainly would have been just a few years ago; and for that I was and am thankful. Also, Mr. Bunker came over and suggested there was a spiritual lesson in there somewhere, which is true.

I'll admit though, it weighed on my mind for the next week, during which time there were better times of keeping proper perspective, and some not so good times, of which God graciously granted that I not hold on to any bitterness for very long and granted repentance for my improper heart condition concerning the situation. I had to let go of all of the plans I had had for the tractor and plow; trust Him in the situation; and instead of just thinking about the situation and wondering what I was going to do, eventually I asked Him for help to figure that out and maybe even help to get the tractor fixed or help in going maybe another direction (as in, maybe now would be the time to look into a horse team for plowing).

In trying to understand what I was actually going to be faced with in regards to repairs, I went and talked to the local tractor repair place; and they suggested with parts and labor it was going to cost a bundle to get it fixed, and that they'd put their money in getting a new tractor instead; but they also gave me some information on tractor salvage places, in case I wanted to try to find the parts.

Shortly after, one of our neighbors, Mr. Gillis, who has done some other plowing work for us, saw or heard about the tractor. Well, come to find out, he worked in the past as a professional tractor repairman; and given his friendliness toward and willingness to help us, it wasn't long before he was out here taking everything apart to see to what extent the damages were, and to hopefully get it to a condition where, if we were able to get the parts, we could repair it.

Mr. Gillis and some of the guys were able to get the big rear wheel off using Mr. Bunker's engine hoist, and you can see Mr. Gillis starting to take things apart:

Farmall 806 Rear Tractor Wheel Held Up by Engine Hoist


This is a close up of the axle and casing attached to the tractor:

Farmall 806 Tractor Broken Axle and Casing


And here is the piece of axle that was still in the wheel:

Farmall 806 Tractor Broken Axle


Now, mind you, we're not talking a 1/2 inch hex bolt here; we're talking 3 1/2 inch thick solid steel that sheered away. I figure that probably the stresses on it over the years just finally got to it. Here's a picture of it next to my shoe so you can get a size reference:

Size Reference for Farmall 806 Tractor Broken Axle


And here is the part of the casing that went with the wheel:

Farmall 806 Tractor Broken Axle Casing


With a little help from me as best I could, Mr. Gillis got it all apart, including the other pieces, like the gears and breaks:

Farmall 806 Gears, Brakes Removed for Axle Repair


And so, there it sits, broken, but now apart and ready for replacement parts. As this situation with Mr. Gillis arose, I thought perhaps the Lord was being gracious in answering my prayer for help through the situation, maybe even to being able to fix the tractor (although I'm still keeping an open mind about perhaps going another direction). I'm in the process of trying to find parts, and perhaps, Lord willing, I'll have an update to this time of tough tractorin'.

I am thankful to God for His graces and mercies in granting some apparent growth in trust in Him, although I am woefully pathetic in that area still; but I pray for a continued increase in measure of those graces that only He can grant and provide. And I pray for anything else He might teach us from this situation.

-- David

Friday, November 26, 2010

David's Digest: Faithful Friend

I wrote the following some time ago, in light of some things I noticed with Gary, our gander. Well, for some reason I never decided to put it out at the time, but later thought that I might if Gary ever died. Well, you can guess then why I'm posting it now. Yes, Gary died yesterday, which interestingly was one day short of being two years to the day (which is today) since I started writing the post below. He had some kind of sickness over the last month or more: he had some fluid in his lungs; he just generally slowed down; and in the end, he didn't really seem to be eating, and was very weak. His lungs seemed to get clearer over this last week, but whatever it was apparently was just too much for him, or was terminal.

I am thankful for the fun and brightness Gary brought during these first years of our homesteading, and thanks to the Bunkers for letting us have him. I'm also thankful that Sue and I were able to be back from a few-day anniversary trip to be here when he died, and that he wasn't a burden to those watching our place while we were gone. And I'm thankful I was right next to him when he took his last breath, and that he didn't seem to suffer.

Even though at the time I wrote the below post he was still hanging around me, he did eventually prefer Gigi over me (good call, Gary!); so I'm glad he had a goose mate for the final chapter of his life. Thanks again to Mrs. Judy for giving Gigi to us.

The Lord has graciously begun to grant me a better perspective regarding affections toward animals. I am sad and will miss having Gary around, and he will be fond in my memories; but I am thankful the Lord granted some time with the farm animal "character" that was Gary.

Gary the Gander and Me Fireside

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you have been following this blog at all, you will know about Gary the goose (or really, Gary the gander, as we've since learned). When I introduced him on this blog, he evidenced an interestingly loyal dedication to whom he considered his "mate," which since we brought him up to our land has been me. Even after introducing a female of his own kind to him, he has resisted leaving my side.

While he has some often interfering quirks (like "Gary vs. the Bucket" shown in his introduction post above), this type of latching on, even to a human, is apparently a common characteristic of geese; but it has also offered me an opportunity to observe fierce loyalty. No matter where I go, generally, he follows. If I leave the land in the car, he will walk up and follow the fence line to, what appears to be, stay in visual contact. If we are separated for a brief time across a field, if he feels it is time for him to come beside me, he runs up to do so.

In the past, my friendships have usually been about myself and how they benefited me, even if it was just to feel a sense of friendship. In community here, I pray my friendship is not that, and more in line with being a brother to the others.

But perhaps, I can take a few lessons from Gary in his devotion to, what seems to be, the object of his affection (so to speak). I would like to chase after Christ the way Gary runs up to me when he might first see me. I would like to follow Christ as persistently and as consistently as Gary follows me around. I would like to befriend Christ and His brethren here on earth in the way Gary stays with me wherever I go.


Here are a couple of places where the Bible describes spiritual friendship. I've included the Puritan expositor John Gill's comments on these verses:

Prov 17:17 - "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."
A friend loveth at all times,.... A true, hearty, faithful friend, loves in times of adversity as well as in times of prosperity: there are many that are friends to persons, while they are in affluent circumstances; but when there is a change in their condition, and they are stripped of all riches and substance; then their friends forsake them, and stand at a distance from them; as was the case of Job, Job 19:14; it is a very rare thing to find a friend that is a constant lover, such an one as here described;

and a brother is born for adversity; for a time of adversity, as Jarchi [says]: he is born into the world for this purpose; to sympathize with his brother in distress, to relieve him, comfort and support him; and if he does not do this, when it is in his power to do it, he does not answer the end of his being born into the world. ... [T]his may be understood of the same person who is the friend; he is a brother, and acts the part of one in a time of adversity, for which he is born and brought into the world; it being so ordered by divine Providence, that a man should have a friend born against the time he stands in need of him. To no one person can all this be applied with so much truth and exactness as to our Lord Jesus Christ; he is a "friend", not of angels only, but of men; more especially of his church and people; of sinful men, of publicans and sinners; as appears by his calling them to repentance, by his receiving them, and by his coming into the world to save them: he "loves" them, and loves them constantly; he loved them before time; so early were they on his heart and in his book of life; so early was he the surety of them, and the covenant of grace made with him; and their persons and grace put into his hands, which he took the care of: he loved them in time, and before time began with them; thus they were preserved in him, when they fell in Adam; were redeemed by his precious blood, when as yet they were not in being, at least many of them: he loves them as soon as time begins with them, as soon as born; though impure by their first birth, transgressors from the womb, enemies and enmity itself unto him; he waits to be gracious to them, and sends his Gospel and his Spirit to find them out and call them: and he continues to love them after conversion; in times of backsliding; in times of desertion; in times of temptation, and in times of affliction: he loves them indeed to the end of time, and to all eternity; nor is there a moment of time to be fixed upon, in which he does not love them. And he is a "brother" to his people; through his incarnation, he is a partaker of the same flesh and blood with them; and through their adoption, they having one and the same Father; nor is he ashamed to own the relation; and he has all the freedom, affection, compassion, and condescension, of a brother in him: and now he is a brother "born"; see Isa 9:6; born of a woman, a virgin, at Bethlehem, in the fulness of time, for and on the behalf of his people; even "for adversity"; to bear and endure adversity himself, which he did, by coming into a state of meanness and poverty; through the reproaches and persecutions of men, the temptations of Satan, the ill usage of his own disciples, the desertion of his father, the strokes of justice, and the sufferings of death; also for the adversity of his people, to sympathize with them, bear them up under it, and deliver them out of it. ...


Prov 18:24 - "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
A man [that hath] friends must show himself friendly,.... Friendship ought to be mutual and reciprocal, as between David and Jonathan; a man that receives friendship ought to return it, or otherwise he is guilty of great ingratitude. This may be spiritually applied; a believer is "a man of friends", as it may be rendered; he has many friends: God is his friend, as appears by his early love to him, his choice of him, and provisions of grace for him; by sending his son to save him; by visiting him, not only in a way of providence, but of grace; by disclosing his secrets, showing his covenant to him, and by making him his heir, and a joint heir with Christ. Christ is his friend, as is evident from his visiting him at his incarnation; and in a spiritual way, by the communication of his secrets to him; by his hearty counsel and faithful reproofs; by his undertaking and doing for him what he has; and especially by suffering and dying in his room and stead. The Holy Spirit is his friend, which he has shown by discovering to him his woeful estate by nature, and the way of salvation by Christ; by working all his works in him; by acting the part of a Comforter to him; by revealing divine things to him, by helping him under all his infirmities; by making intercession for him according to the will of God; and by making him meet for eternal glory and happiness: angels are his friends, as is plain by their well pleasedness with the incarnation of Christ for men; and which they express at their conversion; by their ministering to them, their protection of them, and the good offices they do them both in life and at death; and saints are friends to one another: and such should show themselves friendly to God, their covenant God and Father; by frequently visiting him at the throne of grace; by trusting in him; by a carefulness not to offend, but please him; and by a close and faithful adherence to his cause and interest: to Jesus Christ their Redeemer, by a ready obedience to his commands; by owning and using him as their friend; by taking notice of his friends, and showing them respect, his ministers and poor saints; by cleaving to him, and renouncing the friendship of his enemies: and likewise to the Holy Spirit, by not grieving, quenching, and despising him; but by making use of him, and giving up themselves to his influence and direction; and by acknowledging him as the author of all their grace: also to angels, by speaking well of them, owning their good offices, and reckoning it an honour that they are come and joined to such a company; and to the saints, by Christian conversation with them, by sympathizing with them in all conditions, by hearty counsel, faithful reproofs and admonitions, and by helping them in every distress, inward and outward;

and there is a friend [that] sticketh closer than a brother; who is to a man as his own soul, De 13:6; and so are of one heart and soul, as Jonathan and David, and the first Christians, were; this is true of Christ, and may be expressive of the close union between him and his people; and of his close adherence to their cause and interest; and of his constancy and continuance as a friend at all times; and of his faithfulness and unchangeableness as such ...


To me, Gary exemplifies an interesting example of faithfulness and friendship: In a way, I would like to have that which he shows to me toward Christ Jesus. I pray for God's graces in faithfulness and friendship to Him and His family.

-- David

Friday, November 19, 2010

A House - Update VII - Floored

With the foundation beams up, it was time to start on the floor.


Floor Joists

Given the approximately 8 foot spans, I chose to go with 2x8s for the floor joists, which I planned to overlap on each beam, spaced 16 inches on center. (I had originally thought I would need the entire piers under the floor; but in looking back, given there is planned to be a porch, I probably would have brought the ends of the floor to sit right on the beams.)

I started with the ends, which I decided to double because they were going to support the gabled walls; and I staggered them, similarly to the built-up beams. Also, since I would be overlapping the joists as they crossed the beams, this would offset the joists 1 1/2 inches off from the 16 inch on center layout, which would cause problems with being able to lay the subfloor down evenly centered on joists. However, having these end joists doubled would allow for shifting the subfloor boards to once again end up sitting evenly centered on the joists. The final subfloor board in a course would end up 1 1/2 inches off the end, which I would cut off and put back on the other side, which had been shifted 1 1/2 inches away from the end:

House Floor Outer Joists


After putting them up on both sides, I ran a header string from each built-up joist...

House Floor Outer Joists with Header String


...which would be used to line up the internal joists with each other:

Floor Joist Lined Up with Header String


Once a joist was in place, I toe-nailed it to the beam....

Toe-Nailing Floor Joist with Nail Gun


And finished them by hammering them in further. Being right-handed, it was fun to learn and practice hammering with my left hand:

Hammering In Floor Joist Toe-Nails


And here is one side of the joists all set in a line:

Joists Lined Up with Header String


This is the overlapping of the joists. With any warped boards, I would sometimes have to clamp them together to be able to nail them together properly:

Nailing Together Overlapping Joists


I added spacers between the joists to straighten them and give the overall floor more stability. Also, I put them on the beams, again, for more stability:

Spacers Between Floor Joists


After getting the joists in place, I added the header boards:

Floor Joists Header


Because we are planning on having an inner wall down the middle of the house, and the middle of the house is in between two beams, on every other joist on the middle row of joists, I doubled the joists to give extra support to that wall. I doubled joists for another inner wall that's to run parallel with the joists; and in this picture, I added several doubled joists in a row, which is where we are planning to put our wood burning stove:

Double Floor Joists for Extra Support


To help against wind lift and to better secure the joists to the foundation, I attached each joist where it crossed each beam with hurricane clips:

Hurricane Clips Connecting Floor Joist to Foundation Beam


And here are the joists completed...

Middle of Completed Floor Joists


...facing South...

Full Picture of Completed Floor Joists Facing South


...and facing West:

Full Picture of Completed Floor Joists Facing West


Subfloor

For this, I chose 3/4 inch tongue and groove plywood; the tongues and grooves fit together to make the places where the boards span floor joists much more stable. I also heard it was good to glue them to the joists and use screws, so I used external Liquid Nails for the glue and 3 inch deck screws to secure them, placing screws 8 inches apart on the board edges and 1 foot apart at the internal points on the joists. The board would be fastened down short end to short end across the whole platform, making a "course"; and each course would be staggered from the previous one by half the board.

When I first started, I didn't really think through which long end type I should place against the first outside corner, the tongue side or groove side of the board. Well, I chose groove side, because it didn't seem right to use the tongues side. Well, this stroke of genius started me on a path where with each subsequent course I was trying to fit the groove into the tongue. Needless to say, it was quite difficult, although I finally did get into a pattern where I'd loosen the screws next to the tongue of the previous course and use the mini-sledge hammer to knock them up and loose from the glue so they would flex better when I was trying to slide the groove onto the tongue. I also learned to clean out the groove and clean the tongue so nothing was in the way of them coupling. All of this worked ok until I learned from those much smarter than me at Ranchfest that you could hit a board against the opposite site to force the tongue and groove together. I thought I had tried it before; but when I tried it again after Ranchfest, it worked great. Of course, by then I only had about a course and a half left. :)

At any rate, given how long it took to get the floor on, I figured it was going to be a while before the house is dried in, so we painted the subfloor with water sealer, tinted cedar color (just to make it darker as a personal preference). Notice the stagger pattern of the boards from course to course:

Painting Subfloor with Water Sealer


Here is a course where the boards were shifted 1 1/2 inches to accommodate the overlapping of the floor joists, and I cut off the other overhanging end of the last board of this course and brought it over to this end to fill in the gap:

Subfloor Offset Fill Piece


And here is the platform finished. Thanks to Sue for all of her helping me get the boards in place, and for painting the rest of the floor and repainting my terrible painting job!

Completed Subfloor Facing Southwest
Completed Subfloor Facing West


Even though it took several months, it's finally done; and we thank the Lord for the continued progress on the house.

-- David

Thursday, November 4, 2010

David's Digest: Walmart-Jireh

Webster's 1828 dictionary defines the word "provider" in the following way:

PROVI'DER, n. One who provides, furnishes or supplies; one that procures what is wanted.


I'd like to ask a few questions:

Who or what is the provider of your water? If you pay to get your water piped into your house, the company that does that is your provider.

Who or what is the provider of your food? If you go to a grocery store, the grocery store is (along with every part of the chain involved in getting it there).

Who or what is the provider of your clothing? If you get it from a retail store, the store and the manufacturers are.

I could go on; but if you're paying someone or some entity for you to have the necessities of life, then by the definition above, they are your provider.

If you've placed a middle man between you and God's direct provisions, then in reality you no longer look to God for His providence -- you look to the middle man. Don't believe that? If your water stopped flowing from the faucet in your house, what would you do? You'd call the water company -- your water provider. If you would starve without the nearest grocery store having food to buy, then it is your provider.

To whom you look for your life provisions, they are your provider.

Gen 22:13-14 - "13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh [the Lord will see/provide]: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen." (see John Gill's commentary on vs. 14)

God provided the ram for the sacrifice, and we are to look to Him alone as our provider.


Spiritual Provisions

God providing temporily is really a "type" of His spiritual provisions (we eat bread -- He is the bread of life (John 6:35); we drink water -- He gives the water of life (John 4:14); etc.) In the same way God provided the ram above (also as a type), He provided a Sacrifice, a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, for His people; and we are to look to Him alone for salvation.

Further, God is the only source for all other spiritual provisions, such as spiritual graces, as the heart of man is desperately wicked; and everyone is dead in their sins until God, by His own sovereign will, graces and mercies, breathes new life into them. Did you conjure up your own free-will faith to believe in God, and that's why He saved you? Then YOU were the provider of your faith (and thus your salvation??!!) Do you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, have "power thoughts" for courage and strength, and declare you're going to be meek and humble and not let the things of life get you down? Then YOU are the provider of your Christian graces.

The Bible says otherwise, and prevents any man from boasting of providing his own faith and spiritual graces.

And so, in the end, who is your provider?

-- David

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Orchard - Update II

Orchard Peaches Spring 2010
This Spring we were very excited to harvest our first peach crop! It is still hard for me to believe, having grown up as a city girl, that you can actually grow your own "stuff" and not have to go to the store! Sadly, and as silly as that sounds, it is still such a new concept to me.

We currently have four peach trees in our little orchard; and we were so thankful to see the big, colorful, healthy peaches hanging there, each a gift from God:

Orchard Peaches on Tree Spring 2010


It wasn't a large harvest, but plenty for us to eat and preserve:

Harvested Peaches in Basket


We cut up and placed some on the solar dryer, which turned out great! They are now in canning jars on the counter to grab when we want a snack:

Orchard Peaches on Solar Dryer


I also found a very easy recipe for canning peaches (I didn't even skin them, and they came out fine). I also used minimal sugar to create a very light syrup instead of the normal heavy syrup. They were delicious, and I still have a few jars down in the root cellar for winter time:

Orchard Canned Peaches


Lastly, but certainly not least, I have been wanting to experiment with making chutneys; so I found a great peach chutney recipe in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. I recently mixed it in with a chicken and rice dish, and it was delicious! I have since made other chutneys as well, but plan to devote another blog post to that. But, in short, I am SOLD on chutney!

Orchard Canned Peach Chutney


We are so very grateful to God for His gift of these peaches, among all of the other produce from our orchard this year.

James 1:17: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

Susan