Sunday, December 30, 2012

David's Digest: The Treasure of an Unpleasing Land

When new people are thinking about moving here, I often talk to them about the difficulties in the carnal man with living closely-knit to other folks, but also the great spiritual benefits that can come from that, if not viewed carnally. I also mentioned it at the end of my Living in the Darkness blog post.

For example, if I think I find some inconsistencies in my human Bible teacher's life (who teaches the truth, desires to be conformed to Christ's image, and where I've seen such transformations over the years), or I'm given a simple command (like, put that down and come help me, even if I think what I'm doing is important at the moment) by an authority over me (even more so if I've willingly submitted myself to that authority), or I feel my favors to someone have been abused by that person, etc., assuming my perception of the situation is correct (which I need to very carefully and prayerfully consider, perhaps over an extended period of time, that it might not be), I believe God is affording me a gracious opportunity for His graces to be shown forth in
  • humility
  • meekness
  • forbearance and mercifulness (regardless of percentage of fault, and especially in light of Christ's infinite forbearance and mercy toward me, my sin, my human frailties, my inconsistencies, and my countless abuses of His infinite graces and mercies)
  • forgivingness (my forgiving of others, even asking God to forgive them -- see Gill on Matt 6:12)
  • obedience
  • faithfulness
  • selflessness, servanthood and sacrifice (especially in light of Christ's [God Almighty!] infinite condescension to become a selfless servant, even to be sacrificed by His creation!)
  • waiting on the Lord (sometimes for years and years and years) in prayer (which, while God works it out, either in me or the other person or both, I've helped keep unity and not brought schism)
  • belief in God's sovereign hand
  • etc., etc., etc., etc.
But if I find the opposite in myself coming forth, I believe God is yet again affording me a gracious opportunity to see a lack of His spiritual graces in my life; and then, if I desire to be molded in His image, I can bring these wants before Him in repentance and supplication for these graces. Either way, God is glorified in what appears to be a troubling situation by His work in a sinful worm and wretch like me; and while my carnal man fights it and causes me grief, it is mercifully to my benefit that my heart is tried whether I see any evidence of an interest in Christ or not, so I can give diligence to make my calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10) and work out my own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), which if my heart is not proved, I may lack the Spirit's fruit and not know it, and then never truly seek it. (As an aside, because of the difficulties with my carnal man and complete lack of spiritual ability in myself, and that God often uses trials and afflictions to teach us, I've also recently started to ask God for His help as He's helping me. :) ) These opportunities are a means of God's graces.

You just don't get these kinds of God-given opportunities, certainly alone, but also in the loose-knit "Christianity" of today. There, you can hide; here, you cannot, which, as I'm pointing out, I believe can be a good thing, in bringing about purity and holiness, in individuals and as a group. (As a result too, with examples like the ones from above, if my heart is in order, God might grant me, in His timing, a proper and appropriate opportunity for me to speak with the other person about my perceived issues with him, and I might then find that God has been working on the other person's heart as well!)

God also uses other means to bestow His graces, in His Word, with teaching, by His ordinances, in singing, in trials and afflictions (as I mentioned), by prayer, etc. -- we need to seek Him in these and all of His means, and then we'll find (Luke 11:9). Part of obtaining God's graces comes from asking for them, with repentance; and again, you don't ask for them if you don't know you need them.

In a world of barrenness, if I find a field with a bearing Tree in it, although the field may be full of weeds, and rocks and crevices and difficulties to get to the Tree, which all seem to make the field worthless, it is my private (personal) judgment that it is worth giving up everything (including my sin and carnal reactions/views, carnal/temporal gains and reputation, etc.) to buy that field to obtain the Treasure that is in it.

It is our prayer here that Christ mold us in His image, and we thank Him for the graces, mercies and grace-filled opportunities He has granted us. May we never slumber as He knocks; may we diligently seek Him and His graces; may we see things as He sees them; like a green olive tree, may we trust in His mercies for ever and wait patiently on His name in the house of God; may we be His light, shining on a hill (a rolling one here in central Texas :) ) for as long here as He wills; may we never do anything to offend Him so as to have the candlestick removed or the face of His presence hidden; and may He see us through, in His faith, all the way of our "progress," even through Jordan, to the end. Amen.

-- David

Friday, December 21, 2012

Providence's Perpetuation Provisions: Last Chick Roundup

When we last left our broody hens and chick-hatchings, we had just had another Austrolorp hen go broody, wondering if perhaps the Lord was not done in granting chicks this year.

And sure enough, we moved her into one of the little chicken pen areas in the piano room, and she hatched out somewhere around eight or so -- Group 16!

I didn't get pictures when they were younger and with their mama, and they have since moved on to our chicken pen area (which is our staging area for younger birds before going to the main chicken tractor), but here are a couple of them as they are now:

New Chicks 2012 Sixteenth Hatching in Pen Area
New Chicks 2012 Sixteenth Hatching in Pen Area Again


And a video:




We did have yet another hen start to go broody recently, but because of the difficulties in trying to bring chicks through the winter, we just pulled any eggs she was sitting on, and she eventually lost interest. I don't like to do that, but we've had to try to take care of young chicks when it's really cold, it it takes quite a bit of effort (you can see a little of what we had to do during the pretty bad cold-snap we had a couple of years ago.


Anyway, once again we are very thankful to the Lord for granting these provisions of the chicks throughout the year, and pray they are used for His glory and the benefit of His people.

-- David

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Garden - Spring 2012 - Update III

Our Texas gardens seem to be like snowflakes, there are none alike. This year we planted what we thought were to be large tomatoes, but they came out the size of cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are like candy to me, so they were a treat nevertheless. And we also planted an heirloom tomato plant that didn't produce one solitary tomato until mid-Fall. Go figure. But it almost seemed fitting because Dave and I both are late bloomers ourselves and always root for the underdog, so we were excited when we started seeing little yellow blooms starts to form :) So I thought I'd give an end of the garden "Where Are They Now" update:

God blessed us with an abundance of these cherry tomatoes. We enjoyed them on our salads and in pasta and other dishes all through the summer:

Spring Garden 2012 Tomatoes in a Bowl


I decided to make some lacto-fermented salsa with some of the tomatoes by adding chopped onions, garlic and green peppers, and then adding a salt brine (1 1/2 Tbsp. salt to 1 pint water) to let it ferment for a few days. This stuff is great with tortilla chips or on salads!

Spring Garden 2012 Lacto-Fermented Tomatoes


One of the ladies in the community, Shannon, came over one day to help me chop up some tomatoes in preparation for making my first ever batch of tomato sauce. Here the tomatoes are being rinsed and readied to be chopped:

Spring Garden 2012 Tomatoes Ready to Process into Tomato Sauce


Shannon took an "action" shot of the tomatoes being cut up. Can't you just feel the excitement in the air?! (By the way, her young boys did a great job of helping pick up construction debris in our new house that day as you can see by the garbage bags in the background - thanks, boys!)

Spring Garden 2012 Cutting Tomatoes for Tomato Sauce


Here are the tomatoes all cut up (thanks again, Shannon!) and ready to be made into tomato sauce:

Spring Garden 2012 Cut and Ready to be Simmered into Tomato Sauce


I added other ingredients per the recipe below, and here it is simmering and being prepped to pour into hot jars in order to be pressure-canned:

Spring Garden 2012 Tomatoes Simmering to Become Tomato Sauce


I think the yield was three and a half quarts; but by the time I took this picture, we had already used half our yield! It is pretty tasty stuff!

Spring Garden 2012 Tomato Sauce


As you may know by now, I am all about keeping things simple. So I looked for a really simple recipe. I think next time I may keep it even more simple by adding only garlic and onion, but this recipe is great too. It is titled "Italian Tomato Sauce" in the Ball "Blue Book of Preserving":

ITALIAN TOMATO SAUCE:

Yield: About 7 pints or 3 quarts
  • 4 quarts chopped (about 24 large), seeded, peeled, cored tomatoes (uh, yeah, right - I only cored and chopped mine and threw the rest in as-is)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper (about 1/4 medium)
  • 1 Tbsp. Basil
  • 1 Tbsp. Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. Minced Parsley
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional - I didn't use it)

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking (cook longer if you want to cook out some of the juices and make a thicker, less watery, sauce). Ladle the hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints 15 minutes, quarts 20 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure (depending on altitude) in a steam pressure canner. SIMPLE!!


This past Lord's Day we made the decision to pull the remainder of the garden due to a long, hard freeze that was expected to hit on Monday night (we've been covering one of the black-eyed pea beds and the tomatoes with blankets up to this point, for light freezes, which has worked very well; but we covered other black-eyed peas beds with a tarp, and that didn't work so well). As you can see, the tomatoes were going strong into December:

Spring Garden 2012 Cherry Tomatoes on the Vine in December


The growth seemed to flourish after the temperatures dropped a bit when Fall kicked in:

Spring Garden 2012 Tomato Plants in December


This is the lone, late-blooming, heirloom plant (we had originally planted two, way back in the Spring):

Spring Garden 2012 Heirloom Tomato Plant with Tomatoes


It's too bad we had to stop it in its prime because it put out some beauties:

Spring Garden 2012 Heirloom Tomatoes


You wouldn't know it from this picture, but the width of the basket is about 17 inches! Thank the Lord for the tomato bounty! I plan to ripen most of these little pretties in our summer kitchen and make more salsa and tomato sauce. Also, our neighbor made a delicious mock apple pie with green tomatoes (don't judge until you taste!) for our community Thanksgiving meal, and I was very impressed. So if she's willing to share the recipe, I plan to make a pie with some of our green tomatoes and share the recipe and process with you all, Lord willing:

Spring Garden 2012 Basket of December Tomatoes


Lastly, but certainly not least....ly (? :) ) We picked the last of our black-eyed peas dried pods. (You can learn more about our other black-eyed peas experience when we picked from the Bunker's field of black-eyed peas.) We plan to extract the little dried peas from the pods and save them for re-planting in a future garden, or rehydrating them for soups, stews, etc.:

Spring Garden 2012 Basket of Dried Black-Eyed Peas


Even continuing this year on the heels of one of the worst droughts in Texas history last year, we are very thankful to God, our Provider, for granting us water and a bountiful garden enabling us to eat and preserve vegetables for the future. May He receive all the glory.

Susan



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Goat Milking Stand

When we first started milking our goats, some folks from town graciously gave us a milking stand, and it has served us very well. It has started to really show the effects of time and wear and many repairs, and because when we breed our goats during the winter, we split them into two generations, and so Sue didn't have to walk goats from one pen to another just for milking, I thought I'd put together another one for her, using the original as a spec.

Thankfully, I was able to scrounge up all of the wood necessary for it, which was nice.

I started with the base, which is basically 2 feet by 4 feet. It might be interesting to make it 3 inches less wide so the cross pieces would be 2 feet instead of 27 inches, but we have quite a few leftover pieces of OSB that were cut out from the 2 foot by 4 foot pony wall windows of the house, so one of those is what I used. The 11 inch legs on the original were something of a weak point, so I tried to bolster them by using 2x4 instead of 2x2, and used screws on both sides (which, to allow for easier replacement, on the long side I did from the inside so the eventually uprights wouldn't be attached over/covering the leg screws) and the top:

Goat Milking Stand Under Side of Base
Goat Milking Stand Top Side of Base


I then cut out basically all of the parts I would need:

Goat Milking Stand Parts List


The uprights I used an 8 foot 2x6 cut in half to 4 feet, and then ripped at about 1 1/2 inches. Another weak point in the original design was where these uprights attach to the base, so I thought I would shape them at the bottom to hopefully be more sturdy and have more material to which to attach to the base. (UPDATE: please see our goat milking stand update blog post for a continuing problem with this and an enhancement I added.) Note that for many of the screws I drilled pilot holes, especially when dealing with the thinner pieces or older wood:

Goat Milking Stand Uprights


And then I added some cross braces, a 2x4 placed 10 inches from the platform and a ripped in half 2x4 around 3 inches from the top (although I measured from the 2x4 cross brace because the uprights weren't exactly the same length):

Goat Milking Stand First Cross Braces


And the neck holders, one obviously being only attached at the bottom cross piece (which is the top cross piece because the stand is upside down). These were 3 feet long, ripped from a piece of one of the pieces cut out of the 2x6, a little less than 1 1/2 inches wide so that the moving one would slide nicely between two cross pieces without binding or being too loose. Their outer edges are 9 inches from the outside edge of the cross piece:

Goat Milking Stand Neck Holders


And then the last top cross piece and the shelf holders, which were from a 10 inch 2x4 cut diagonally. Those I put the top level with the top of the bottom 2x4 cross piece:

Goat Milking Stand Back Cross Piece and Feeder Shelf Braces


Here is the shelf. I used a 2x10 for this:

Goat Milking Stand Feeder Shelf


And here are some extra screws I put in to hopefully more securely attach the shelf:

Goat Milking Stand Feeder Shelf Extra Screws


And here it is!

Goat Milking Stand Complete


We had some u-shaped brackets laying around, which just happened to fit perfectly over the two neck holder pieces, and so we're using that to hold the neck pieces closed when the goat's neck is in it:

Goat Milking Stand Neck Holders Latch


And here the milking stand is in action! We hope to find and start using something more sturdy for the feed holder instead of plastic buckets, like an aluminum pot or the like from a thrift store -- something to withstand the weather and the goats a little better :) :

Goat Milking Stand in Actions


We're grateful to the Lord for the original stand from those generous town folks, for the left-over wood to be able to use for this, and for the opportunity to have it completed. We are continually thankful for God's provisions generally and for the healthy goat milk.

-- David

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Each year we gather together at this time as brethren around a meal in fellowship and thankfulness to the Lord for His spiritual and temporal provisions. And so, by God's mercies, we were able to meet together for this once again!

This is before the meal time:

Thanksgiving 2012 Before the Meal


And here are the tables decorated very nicely!

Thanksgiving 2012 Table Setting and Decorations
Thanksgiving 2012 More Table Setting and Decorations


The Lord graciously supplied the meal provisions in the main courses:

Thanksgiving 2012 Main Courses


And drinks:

Thanksgiving 2012 Drinks


And desserts! YUM!

Thanksgiving 2012 Desserts


And then it was time to break bread (and turkey and all of the trimmings!) together:

Thanksgiving 2012 Fellowshipping with the Meal
Thanksgiving 2012 More Fellowshipping with the Meal
Thanksgiving 2012 Still More Fellowshipping with the Meal


After the meal, the Lord granted, and we enjoyed, a peaceful and very pleasant time of continued fellowship and hanging out together, here with the ladies:

Thanksgiving 2012 Ladies Enjoying Fellowshipping After the Meal


...and here, the men:

Thanksgiving 2012 Men Enjoying Fellowshipping After the Meal


It is our prayer that we be and continue to be a candlestick of the Church here, for Christ's glory (Rev 1:20,11:4):

Thanksgiving 2012 Lighted Candlestick


We are grateful to the Lord for granting us this time of gathering together for His glory in thanks. May we be ever thankful for His perfections, love, condescension, forbearance, forgiveness, and the multitudes of His other graces and mercies; and by His graces and mercies may we be willingly obedient and faithful servants of Him, out of love for Him, with our hearts focused on the person of Christ, as a purified bride (continuing to be purified by Him even now, individually and as a group), with love, faithfulness, service, and forbearance to the brethren, in humility and meekness, with His continued faith unto the end, wherever that might lead. Amen.

-- David

Monday, November 19, 2012

Simple Bread Rolls

I've been wanting to do this blog post for almost a year now and figured just before Thanksgiving would be a timely...uh...time!

With there always being so much going on these days on our homestead, right now there's a fine line between consciously keeping things process driven but also actually getting things done. So recipes like this come in handy.

I volunteered to make the dinner rolls for our community Thanksgiving meal last year and chose a recipe that ended up taking a few hours in which to make the rolls, including kneading the dough, letting it rise, twice, etc. Well, I started to panic when I realized the recipe would not make enough; and I didn't have time to make another batch. Then I found this bread roll recipe and threw it together quickly to make up the difference in the amount needed. I couldn't believe how fast and easy it was; and the rolls tasted as good, if not better! I was so thankful to have found it because it changed the way I think about making rolls for everyday meals.

So if you're looking for a quick bread/dinner roll recipe for Thanksgiving or any other meal, I highly recommend trying this:

SIMPLE BREAD ROLLS - Yield: 16 rolls (from http://www.food.com/recipe/bread-rolls-246317)

INGREDIENTS

2 (1/4 ounce) packages yeast

3 1/2-4 1/2 cups white bread flour (I use half whole wheat flour, half unbleached white flour)

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1/2 cup boiling water

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

DIRECTIONS

1. In a small bowl, mix milk with water. Add sugar, yeast, and butter. Stir until yeast is dissolved and set aside for 10 minutes or until yeast has foamed up a bit.

2. In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Use the lower amount of flour to start with and add more only if the dough is really too sticky.

3. Add yeast mixture to flour and mix.

4. Knead until smooth and elastic.

5. Place in greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes. (I turn my oven on warm and place the bowl in there)

6. Oil your hands and shape the dough into rolls and place in a well-greased pan. I use 2 round non-stick cake pans.

7. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise another 15 minutes.

8. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

9. Let these cool down before you remove them from the pan or they will likely tear.


For those of you who are helped by step by step photos, here you go!


Here the wet ingredients have all been mixed together and set aside for the yeast to start to foam up:

Simple Bread Rolls Wet Ingredients


All the dry ingredients are then mixed together:

Simple Bread Rolls Dry Ingredients


The yeast has foamed up and is ready to be added to the dry ingredients:

Simple Bread Rolls Yeast Foaming


I knead the dough for about five minutes, but your experience may vary:

Simple Bread Rolls Kneading Dough


And it eventually reaches a smooth and elastic consistency:

Simple Bread Rolls Dough Before Rising


The dough should expand in size like this after it has been placed in a warm area for 15 minutes:

Simple Bread Rolls Dough After Rising


To form the dough into the roll:

Step A: Grab a small doorknob-sized roll of dough from the large amount:

Simple Bread Rolls Starting to Form Roll


Step B: Start to smooth the dough from the top down:

Simple Bread Rolls Shaping Roll Step A


Step C: Continue to smooth the top of the roll all the way to the underneath:

Simple Bread Rolls Shaping Roll Step B


Step D: Make all sides of the roll even and smooth:

Simple Bread Rolls Shaping Roll Step C


Place the rolls on large cookie sheet or in two round cake pans:

Simple Bread Rolls in Pan Ready to Rise


Here are the rolls after rising in the pan:

Simple Bread Rolls in Pan After Rising


These rolls have been prepped and baked in about an hour and are ready to serve with butter, jam or whatever you like! You see...simple!

Simple Bread Rolls Ready to Serve


...except for this batch that ended up rising waaaayyyyyy to long in a round pan on a hot day and turned into pizza dough :(

Simple Bread Rolls That Have Melted and Lost Their Shape


Whether you use this recipe or not, I pray for God to grant the reader a blessed Thanksgiving and the real Bread of life in His Word.

Susan