Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone had a really great Christmas that was all you wanted it to be. We had a nice day here. For the first time in 22 Christmases we stayed home and celebrated by ourselves. I must say I did miss the relatives, the hubbub, staying at parents’ homes, all the food and festivities. But with the kids’ schedules becoming harder to coordinate, I think it was time to make the leap to a new set of traditions. Hopefully the kids will come home for Christmas for a long while.

My sister Melissa and my niece Rachael joined us for the day. It was snowing where they were at; they had gotten about 4 inches when she left home. But by the time they got to town here, the roads were dry. I met her at the base of the mountain and we took the 4WD up. It started to snow here shortly thereafter and it snowed off and on all day; it was nice to have a white Christmas. We enjoyed some sticky rolls for breakfast with a fire in the fireplace and Christmas tunes on XM. Steve’s dad makes sticky rolls every Christmas morning; it just wouldn’t quite be the same without carrying on that tradition. It was so much fun to see a little one who still believed in all the magic of Christmas opening gifts. I had picked her up 10 or so little trinket gifts and Melissa brought a few along from home as well. Every gift was opened with squeals and words of delight. She chattered on incessantly about each one.

The ham from the neighbor was really good, we enjoyed it for dinner. I have a pot of bean soup on the stove this morning from the bone and some scraps. I also bagged up portion sizes, enough for 4 meals and put a large baggie in the fridge for sandwiches for the week. We had a fresh veggie tray, potato casserole (a family tradition), homemade rolls, and salad. Not a fancy meal, but healthy and filling.

Rae was hysterically funny as usual, filling the day with her antics. We laughed till we cried. At one point in the meal, Melissa corrected her for displaying a mouth full of food to everyone while singing and dancing a jig on her chair. She got embarrassed and went to hide. A couple minutes later she was spying on us from behind the living room couch. Steve spotted her and she went to turn. She slipped, landing face first on the floor, cutting her lip slightly. I will say, her moments of anguish are just as dramatic as her happy ones. Although it bled a bit, it was just a tiny cut to the inside of her upper lip. She insisted relentlessly that we put a band-aid on it. We tried to explain it wouldn’t stick and had actually stopped bleeding already, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. At four years old, a Band-aid fixes a lot. So, I broke out the Band-aids and Melissa went to work. We laughed till we cried once again.

They took our greyhound home with them. He is just too much of a city dog for us. If I had an actual fenced-in yard, it would be a different story, but I have to take him out on a leash anytime he is out. Melissa goes for trail runs or some other outing daily, so he seems to be a better fit for them, as he enjoys being able to run and get out a bit. Rae of course loves him; she played with him constantly whenever she visited. Melissa says they both are quite sleep deprived at this point, but I’m sure all her loving will level out. She told me Rae napped on a blanket beside him on the living room floor. I’m glad he is going to a loving home. And of course I get to dog sit when Melissa travels.

I hate to think of taking the tree down and putting the decorations away for another year. We’ve had such a wonderful holiday season. I am looking forward to 2008 I think it too will be a wonderful year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

The kids opening gifts

Rae showing off a candy bracelet

Rae with the band-aid on her lip

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Blustery Day

I’ve begun collecting eggs to put into the incubator once again. I plan to collect them for a week to 10 days and then put what I have in and see how they do. I figure the chicks will be big enough to put out in the coop by the end of March. The roosters are crowing like old pros now. I intended to process a bunch them during the 2 warm days we had last week, but one day was extremely windy and the other was filled with work and necessary errands. I’m hoping to have a few warm days in January to take care of that business. My sister Melissa wants to watch and help, so I hope we can work it out. As of now, with the price of feed, they are eating me out of house and home.

The neighbor closest to us, about ¾ mile away, brought up a Christmas gift basket last night. I was so blown away by their generosity. I had taken eggs over to them this fall and occasional loaves of home made focaccia bread, but really hardly know much about them. I did Google his name a month or two after we moved in and found out he invented something to better process fossil fuel and then sold his business to the tune of 80 million, so I guess he can afford to be generous, I just didn’t expect it. I feel a bit awkward, I was going to take over some home baked cookies, but after the lovely gift basket they showered us with, cookies seem a little trite. The gift basket included a nice 9 lb spiral cut honey ham, some nuts, cheese ball, crackers, fancy imported chocolates and a box of assorted tea. I hadn’t picked up a ham yet, but I can tell you, it wasn’t going to be anything like that. What a blessing! Our hunter friend Ben told me Sunday he has a goose for us as well. Anymore, it seems every time I turn around God is pouring out an unexpected blessing; and like just God it is bigger and better than I would have thought of for myself.

While here, they asked if we have seen the lions much. Of course Steve & I have yet to see them. Turns out just last week he was checking on his horses and came upon a fresh lion kill at the spring just to the north east of our place. There were 2 adults and 2 of this years cubs feeding on a deer just 200 feet from our house. He said one charged him and he backed off. They normally are loners and they normally don’t charge adults so not sure what was up with that. Just 2 weeks ago the neighbor on the other side of us had them attack and kill two of their pets. I guess it’s good that we haven’t seen them.

It turned a bit colder today, starting out at 42 this morning and ending up at about 22 as I sit here typing. The winds were howling further up the mountain, although we did get a bit of a blast here at the house as well, with winds gusting to about 40 mph. It started snowing at about 11 a.m., just small flurries swirling around in the wind. As the day wore on, the flakes began to grow in size and intensity till it finally decided to stop around 4 this afternoon. For all the snow, not much really stuck; we probably have about an inch on the ground. I think it was thanks to the earlier warm temperatures.

As I looked out around the time it started to snow and noticed a small herd of elk cows moving across the meadow. I counted about 30. The grazed all day and by dark had begun to work their way up the mountain to find a safe spot to bed down for the night. I hope to see them work their way back down in to the meadow in the morning. It would be nice if they would hang out here for the winter. Several weeks ago I saw 11 bull elk cross our land in about the same place.

About 18 of the elk, the rest were further down in the draw, hidden in the trees.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Savoring the Season

Christmas is just around the corner. This year I am relishing every minute of the preparations; cookie baking, tree trimming, carols, gift wrapping, the old Christmas cartoons, and all the rest. I’m not even minding the antsy-ness of the kids too much. Em has been bugging to open a gift early for the last two weeks; so far I’ve just laughed it off, telling her she has to wait. I did tell her that it’s an old German tradition, and one my family used to observe, to open one gift a day early. I think it must have originated with the very smart idea to relieve parents of the incessant bouncing off the walls that goes on in the days leading up to the Christmas celebration. We may keep with tradition and open just one a day early.

I’ve been working on some cards, mostly for the folks at church; sorry to the rest of you, I am pretty bad about getting cards & letters out anymore. At least I can have a little feeling of accomplishment knowing that a few people will actually be getting a card from me before the actual day passes. And, we have a lot of news this year to share, oh well, maybe next year. I put it on my list of goals to accomplish next year. Ya, well don’t hold your breath on that. Anyhow, cards and getting gifts wrapped and delivered to neighbors, teachers and the like, has taken up my time the last couple of days, and I’ve really enjoyed the creative outlet it has provided.

I’ve been contemplating my goals for next year. I have a long list, for sure. The move side-tracked me in some ways and I look forward to a new season and a new opportunity to get back on track in those areas. I can tell you the urgent is not always the important and the important is not always urgent, and yet I tend to get caught up in the urgent. Laundry has to be done now, bills have to be paid now, unpacking this, that or the other, etc. It is easy to set aside the important, the time with the kids, time with God, etc. because it is seldom urgent. That’s something I plan to work on this year.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last two weeks thinking about what direction I want to be going in 2008. It is sort of humbling to me when I take time to assess where I am, where I have come from, and where I want to be. I’m thankful to have what I have and to be where I am in life, and yet there is so much more that know I can be doing and accomplishing or maybe should have done and accomplished by now. But I think to press on and continue to reach toward the mark even when we have fallen short of our ideals is crucial to future success. So I have a list and a plan for this coming year that I hope to knock out. I’ll keep you posted on how that is coming along.

Here are a few of the cards I've made over the last couple of days.





Em's teacher gift. Her teacher has been so great, I was excited to make her gift extra special.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Well, I made soap this past week and although I wasn’t sure how it would turnout going into it, it seems like I ended up with a nice final product. I “helped” mom make some eons ago when dad butchered a hog, but that was the extent of my experience. I have to honest I was probably 12 or 13 and not sure mom would agree that I was any help, but mom was always good that way about ‘helping” her in the kitchen.

I have wanted to make some for awhile and figured after Thanksgiving I’d be able to get my hands on a large quantity of oil. People are often looking to get rid of the peanut oil they fry their turkey in and sure enough I ended up with 10 gallons of it from someone in town. So all I had to buy was some lye. Next time, I make my own lye from ashes & rainwater, but being this was the first time I’ve attempted it, I decided to buy.

It was pretty simple, 17 lbs of oil, 3 cans of lye and about 80 oz water; I just googled a recipe and lye calculator. Although I have to say the calculator was inaccurate, only calling for 2 cans of lye which initially didn’t set up. But with the addition of a third can, it turned out just right. Depending on the type of oil used, the lye and water can vary. I also added in about ¾ tsp of oil of peppermint to give it a slight scent. I stirred till it began to trace and then poured into a couple of paper box lids that I had lined with a plastic trash bag.

Once it set up I turned it out and cut it into bar sized pieces. It’s now setting in the basement to dry out and cure for about 6 weeks. Half will be ground into laundry soap, with the addition of some borax to the mix, and the other will remain bar soap. I only used half the peanut oil, so I can make another batch here soon. With all the ashes from the fire place right now and all the snow, I just may attempt to make my own potash for this next batch.

It has continued snowing, with an additional 4 inches overnight. I took the kids to school this morning because I need the 4WD to get around. I’ve been swamped with work -Christmas orders, and need to get those filled and run into town today. Steve gets home from China tomorrow; I hope his flight isn’t delayed. The church gals are having a cookie exchange that I hope to make, however if his flight is delayed much, I’ll miss the fun.

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Just turned out onto the counter and cut

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Here is a bar!

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Hershey guarding the tree. It just looked like a kodak moment.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Snowy Day

I awoke this morning to a 4 inch thick snow blanket standing stately on every branch and frosting every boulder. The still quietness and beauty of it all took my breath away. The snow clouds were thick. Just 100 feet up, the mountain was shrouded in their thickness. Small flakes silently drifted through the air. I donned my coat and boots and set out to feed the chickens. Hershey was excited to take a run in it, dragging her nose as she ran along gobbling up snow now and then and tossing her head in the air as she looked back at me, begging me to play along. I charged at her a few times and she ran in circles around me occasionally changing her direction to run directly at me, becoming more excited as I screamed in apprehension. At the last possible second she swerved off to just avoid a collision and gain speed for another round.

As she circled around to make another run at me we were both abruptly halted by a howling cry. It sounded as if it were coming from the draw further up the meadow, like a coyote or perhaps an injured dog. The sound had been swallowed by the quietness too quickly to determine exactly what it was. Then a second time it pierced out, then a third. Hershey silently pointed, ears perked as she waited again to hear the howl. Fully focused, she stood like a statue; tail straight out. Snowflakes silently wafted, landing on her head and back as we waited to hear it cry out again.

With the last cry I determined it was coming from the chicken coop. My heart sunk as I questioned the safety of my flock. I ran, snow flying off my boots and grains airborne as I quickly carved a trail to their house; thoughts of horror filled my mind. As I got closer I laughed as I recognized the cry. It was that of a young rooster attempting to crow for the first time. It was pathetic. If I was a rooster, I’d practice in private till I had it down; no hen could be too impressed by that ruckus. He seemed pretty proud to be the first to call out his roo-hood, even if it was just something like “ar-aaaaaa.” I wondered when they were going to start crowing, seems they were plenty old. Steve will be glad to hear it; he has been asking me when they are going to start.

I fed them and headed back to the house, Hershey was no longer interested in playing. She was more interested in the eggs I was holding, hoping maybe I had one for her; no such luck. When the hens were sick last fall, I had them on antibiotic and fed Hershey the eggs every day, she still holds out hope after all this time.

I brought in an armful of firewood and started up the wood burner. It was a chilly 58 in the house when I awoke. I had gone to bed early last night with instructions to Josh to load up the fire box before he retired. The chill in the air revealed that detail had been neglected. I raked the coals to expose the glowing embers and tossed on some kindling which quickly ignited. Within in an hour or two the temperature will be much more comfortable.

Looks like a great day to stay inside with a fire. As I pause from my typing and glance outside, the C-9s on the Christmas tree reflect off the front window and the fire is dancing in the wood burner. A rabbit is foraging for a morsel under the snow and birds flit back and forth in front of my window, gracefully lighting on snow covered twigs. I have to ask myself, does it get much better than this? I think I’ll go pop some cookies in the oven and turn on some Christmas music.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Miss you brother

10 years ago today, my brother passed away and I just had some things running deep through me that I wanted to put out there:

Bruce, it’s so hard to believe it was 10 years ago today that you passed from this life to the next. If I could, I’d tell you one more time that I love you and how much I appreciated what a great big brother you were to me. Of all my siblings I was definitely closest to you. I remember going home and crying after your funeral when your co-worker from the dairy told me, “Oh you’re the one from Chicago, oh he really loved you, he liked you best. He talked about you all the time.”

Like me, you were very sensitive and tender hearted; you wore your heart on your sleeve. We were both left-handed, struggled at geometry, loved being frugal, had a penchant for drawing, loved Rich Mullin’s music; it seemed we had so much in common. I loved coming over to baby-sit for you & Diane. I enjoyed spending time talking to you about anything and everything. I miss your guitar playing, our monthly phone conversations and the guidance and direction you imparted into my newly married relationship. I always admired how much you loved your kids and Diane. I remember thinking I want my family to be just like your's.

I remember how you would give everyone Christmas gifts even when money was extremely tight, usually something you had made; a part of your heart. When we were kids, you gave me a set of plastic horses that I LOVED, you used your own money to buy them for me. You were quick to give of yourself, whether it was volunteering on the fire department or at your church, or helping re-roof my house or put in our new fence.

You always had a jillion Robert’s Dairy misprinted containers you were quick to hand out for gardening or other projects. I remember too all the random stuff you collected for future projects. Too bad Craigslist didn’t exist then; you would have loved it! Your house remodel was pretty impressive, loved the kitchen you redid, it was gorgeous. You had a lot of talent that way; you were the original Tim-the-tool-man, with all the grunts and sound effects included.

I’m thankful that you taught me how to draw. Although I never got as good as you, it is a part of you that I will always carry with me. I am also thankful that I got to come visit you and spend time with you just weeks before you passed away. I remember the last walk we took together, talking about God, the Bible and just stuff. I found it neat that when you passed away, your bible was found open on the kitchen counter to the very passage we had been talking about on our walk. I remember talking about experiencing God and how impressed we were with how wide, how deep, how great is God’s love for us.

You’d be proud of your kids; they have grown up into fine young adults. Christopher sounds just like you, he looks a lot like you too, so does Ben. Your girls are sweet young women, you’d be proud.

So much has transpired in the last 10 years, it seems hard to believe it hasn’t been longer. It seems, at times, like that was an entirely different life. I still have a hard time visiting your grave site when I visit back home. I remember you so full of life, it is hard for me to go there and just see a stone. But you do live on in the lives and hearts of so many people. I have great joy that I got to spend time with you and be a part of your life and have you a part of mine. I guess I’m most joyful that you had a strong relationship with God and because of that, this is not the end.

I miss you and love you brother.

Ephesians 3:17&18
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.