Saturday, June 28, 2014

Book Review - 'Killing Jesus' by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard is one in a series of 'Killing'  books that include Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy.  I did not read either of these books prior to reading Killing Jesus.  The book is intended to be a history of the crucifixion event and not a Christian commentary but O'Reilly, who claims a Catholic faith, treats Christianity fairly and with due respect.  The book is, in fact, dedicated "To those who love their neighbors as themselves".  This is a clear reference to Matthew 22 and Jesus' reply to the Pharisees and Sadducees who, in an attempt to discredit Him, asked Him to point out the 'greatest commandment'.  I see his dedication as pointing toward those who are true Christ followers.

While I have essentially given up television (with the exception of NFL Football - Go Colts!) I have, in the past, watched O'Reilly's news and commentary program on the Fox network, The O'Reilly Factor.  It was one of the last regular programs on my watch list before deciding I simply had better things to do.  Thus I am familiar with O'Reilly's political views and the manner in which he approaches current and historical events.  I find him to be largely fair, and refreshingly open and unapologetic about his personal biases, most of which align reasonably well with my own.

O'Reilly draws from a collection of extra-biblical sources developed from the rich and extensive documentation left by the Romans themselves and, as one would expect, from the four Gospels.  True to his journalistic background he is careful to site his sources and references, and dedicates a small section at the end of the book to these sources.

The book begins with a lengthy discussion of the political and social world into which Christ was born with references to events more than 500 years prior to Jesus' birth.  O'Reilly's summary of the historical events that shaped the Roman Empire are engaging and sufficiently detailed to give the reader an emotional as well as intellectual feel for the combination of political might and moral decrepitude of the period.  O'Reilly starts with the time of Christ's birth and weaves a path back and forth through time pointing out significant events and personages that shaped the character, both good and evil, of the Roman Empire at the time of Christ.

After laying the historical, political and social foundation in the first four of twenty one chapters (plus 'Afterword', 'Postscript', 'Sources', 'Acknowledgements', 'Illustration Credits' and 'Index'), O'Reilly turns to the life of Jesus Himself.  He describes the significant events that influenced and shaped Jesus' relationship with the Jewish religious establishment, the Roman authorities, his Disciples and followers, and the general population around the region.  I find the descriptions to be generally true to the Biblical accounts.  O'Reilly draws some conclusions that are not directly attributable to a biblical chapter and verse, but are nonetheless reasonable and largely consistent with the attitudes expressed in the chapter and verse writing of the Gospels.  Coming to the book with a Protestant background (Church of Christ) I do not know if these conclusions are based on extra-biblical Catholic writings and thinking, simply the conclusions of a professional journalist, or literary 'seasoning' to keep the reader engaged.  In any case, a Biblically informed reader will be able to quickly identify these excursions and make their own judgments on validity.

The chapters that describe the hours and events leading up to and including the crucifixion are especially engaging.  The picture O'Reilly paints of the violence of Jesus' treatment at the hands of both the Jewish and Roman authorities is graphic, but respectfully done.  It does give a believing reader a deeper appreciation for Christ's suffering leading up to the crucifixion and is consistent with other Christian authors', (e.g. Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ) descriptions.  Likewise, O'Reilly's account of the crucifixion is well done and consistent with the Biblical record.

Chapter 21 ends with two women at an empty tomb and the words, "To this day, the body of Jesus of Nazareth has never been found.".  The 'Afterword', acknowledges the Biblical account of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances and the centrality of Christ's resurrection to the Christian faith.  It goes on to state how the each of the other important personages (Judas, the remaining eleven disciples, Pilate, and others) lived and died.

I would recommend Killing Jesus to all, and especially believers, as another view of Jewish and Roman society around the time of Christ's sacrifice.  I would also recommend, as the reader approaches the passion week in the book, that he or she take the time to read the biblical account of the passion and crucifixion to ground himself or herself as they read through O'Reilly's account.   The book was never intended to be "The Gospel According to Bill" and does not pretend in any way to be such.  The reader who goes in expecting to gain a deeper understand of the times, traditions, and society surrounding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will not be disappointed.

Col. 1:9-12,


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Family and More Family

In my last post we had just gotten back from vacation in Holland, Mi.  I like to wait to post until we get back from our travels, so I'm not advertising when we are gone.

We got back on a Friday evening and took off again the very next morning for a 3 hour drive south past Indianapolis to meet our future Son-in-Laws family.  We have him and his two little girls as guests in our home regularly and our daughter also goes down to his family regularly.  This is the first time the two families actually met.

They had arranged a cook-out with the whole crew, which is a pretty much an every-Sunday-after-church thing anyway.  What a wonderful family!  Grandma, his Mom and her twin sister and their families, and a whole passel of little ones.  They pray before meals in a circle holding hands just like our family does.  Everyone pretty much looks after everyone else's kids just like our family did when the young ones were that age.  Family friends came in, fixed a plate, and introduced themselves just like our family.  They were warm, welcoming, and absolutely wonderful in every way.

Three hours is not a real long way to have your 'little girl' go, but it's not a casual drive either.  Knowing she will be a part of such a close extended family makes it a little easier to let her go.  She is already loved and will definitely be cared for.  We also got to see the place where the new family will live.  It's about a 5 minute drive from their place to where his Mom and Step-Dad live.

Sunday brought Worship, Sunday School, and some up-close and personal time with the brakes on my son's truck.  Monday and Tuesday were typical first week back at work after a vacation days, almost:  Not sure you want to be there and a stack of work to catch up on.  Wednesday, however, brought a call that my Mom was on her way to the hospital in an ambulance.  Other being quite dehydrated her condition made her quite ill, but was not life threatening.  She was treated well in the ER and admitted for a two night stay.  I stayed with her in the hospital the next day, trying to work via internet while looking after her.

I had an extended illness a couple years ago and ended up being off work for almost four months after a week in the hospital.  Much of that time I was either in bed or in a comfy chair.  I got so bored I wrote a daily email blog called "Musings from the Recliner".  It was a essentially a humorous bit that went over well with friends and family, and kept them all in touch.  I decided to do a couple of those from hospital while looking after Mom.  I'm including them, with comments, only lightly edited in this post:

The View from the Visitor Chair #1

Here I am (once again) sitting in the hospital with my Mom as the patient. 


The good news:  She’s doing much better than yesterday.  They’ve located the source of the infection and are treating it accordingly. She still in intensive care, but they’ve removed the isolation protocols.


The bad news: She’s going to be in another night.  I have all the medical power of attorney for her, so I kind of feel like I need to stick around.  I’ve found that unless a patient has an advocate with all the appropriate “powers” it’s hard to get answers and appropriate care.


The worse news (for you):  I just can’t help myself.  I’m going to subject you to another running email: “View from the Visitor’s Chair”.  You just can’t keep this stuff to yourself.


The ER: 

We’ll start with her visit to the ER.  She was in the ER for almost 5 hours before they admitted her and got her an Isolation Protocol Intensive Care room.  She was treated as promptly as it gets in an ER, and with caring and respect.  The family was all treated well also.  Not one thing to complain about.  The surprise:  We had a wonderful ER nurse.  In fact, we’ve know her for years.  She’s the vet tech that looks after our pets.  She’s the one who put down our cat and dog when their time came.  Apparently she works a couple of nights a week in the ER.  It took me few minutes to put her into the right context – I must admit it was a little weird.  One of the charms of a small town hospital, I suppose.  Still, all good.


The next morning…


The Discharge Lady:

Even though she’s not getting discharged today the discharge lady that arranges for home health care if required came in to talk.  Mom is generally in good health for an 85 year old lady, and is quite independent.  She still drives, lives on her own in the same farmhouse she’s lived for 54+ years.  She prides herself on still mowing her own lawn and will tell that anyone who might try to treat her like a frail old lady.  The discharge lady made that mistake and for her sins had to listen to the “I’m still independent” lecture.  Twice.  My Mom is a very considerate Christian lady and usually very quiet… usually.   Don’t make the ‘frail old lady’ mistake.


The Doc:

You forget how much ‘fun’ it is working with hospitals until you get back into doing it.   I asked yesterday when the doc makes rounds: “Oh, never before 10:00 and usually around 11:00”.  That’s a little unusual, but I took her word for it.  I get here at about 8:15 and he’s already come and gone.  And Mom doesn’t believe his diagnosis.  And after doing this with my Dad, I learned there is nothing to be gained by debating with the nurse on the doctor’s diagnosis.  I did try…  I did crash and burn…  He’s likely right, anyway.


The Room:

You also forget what a drag it is to do ‘work’ work from a hospital chair in the intensive care area.  When your Mom is watching "Let's make a Deal" ...  And she's pretty hard of hearing...   And her aids are at home...  And folks on the show are screaming like little girls...   And the nurses are doing their thing every 15 minutes or so.  My wife is here too, and I gave her the ‘comfy’ chair.  I have a metal folding chair with a spare blanket as a cushion.  Another part of the charm of a small town hospital, I suppose.   Chris says  “Focus, Mark.  Focus.”  Working on it, man.  De brought me a third cup of coffee.  I should be able to do something…


The View from the Visitor Chair #2

Sister in law brought Mom’s hearing aids in.  Those of you familiar with aids know there is sometimes a little piece of what looks like fishing line on the earpiece that acts as a sort of spring to keep the aid in place (mine has broken off, so I can’t show you).  Mom’s also broke off and she is concerned it won’t work without her ‘antenna’.  I tried to explain it’s not an antenna.  I don’t think she completely believes me, but at least the TV is not so loud.

With the TV turned down I can now hear at least three different ‘dingers’ going off demanding attention.  They’re not getting it, but they’re not giving up.  You have to admire that kind of persistence.  (Focus, Mark.  Focus.)


Perhaps the only TV show with more screaming than “Let’s Make a Deal” is “The Price is Right”.  Don’t these people have real lives?  I just don’t get it. 


The ER nurse being the Vet nurse (her husband is the Vet) has garnered some comments.  One of my brothers double-dog dared me yesterday to ask her if she handles the spaying/neutering duties for the hospital, too.  I was tempted, but decided to let that dog lie.



Mom’s done eating her lunch and is back in bed.  Time for De and I to find some chow…


Friend L:

The ER nurse is the Vet Nurse?

Yes, I guess you can’t make this stuff up. 

On the other hand, that has got to be fodder for a story to head off in a half dozen different directions.
…pulling out a dog biscuit instead of a lollypop for a good patient
…accidentally paging the vet instead of the chief resident
…asking if they (the patient’s escort) brought a leash – Well, that one may actually be a common request of many ER nurses for their less than stellar patients.

 and later...

You haven’t answered whether you earned a lollypop or dog biscuit from the nurse for your own good behavior

I chose to accept that her not planting her hospital sneakers into my posterior was reward enough.


Friend C: 
I triple dog dare you to ask the nurse!!!!!

By the man code, this must be done.  Look forward to hearing the outcome.


Unfortunately for all, she’s gone back the vet clinic with the 4 legged patients instead of the 2 legged variety.  Believe it or not, Angola has separated the two hospitals (you can’t both get your shots updated in the same place) so the opportunity has passed me by.  Bummer!  (whew!!)

Friend J
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your hospital events . . . I appreciate the humor, but please take care of yourself too!  I am glad your mom is doing better.  I will say prayers for her. 


Friend A

You missed your calling – you need to start writing a book.

Tomorrow bring a pad for your butt.

and later...

That’s my problem!!!!  I was unaware of the man code.  Is it in the CML directory? 

(CML stands for Command Media Library - It's our extensive,  often ridiculed, and sometimes ignored collection of standard operating procedures that cover even the most trivial tasks.- Mark)

Friend M

Oh you have to love small towns – versatile with animals and patients – just be cautious if you see a cow walking down the hall while you are still in the hospital….might want to leave at that point.


Mom is doing much better, is home with some help from the Home Health Care folks.  Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes.

Col. 1: 9-12


Friday, June 20, 2014

A Little R & R

We're finally settled in and comfortable after De and I took a couple of days of rest and relaxation.  We spent the better part of two days, with one night in between, in Holland Michigan midway up the eastern side of Lake Michigan.  Mostly we were just looking for the two of us to get away, and it didn't really matter all that much where we went.   Thursday morning we drove up (we're about 2 1/2 hours away) and started with the "touristy" things.  We first went to Windmill Island Gardens.

 This is a pretty little park with a working wheat-grinding windmill imported many years ago from The Netherlands.  (They are now considered national treasures and they have not allowed export of the genuine articles for a long, long time.)  It's a six story structure to the top of the building (with something like 15 foot stories) and you can get a tour of the first four.  The upper two stories are too filled with big ironwood wooden gears and such to safely allow the general public to crawl through.

It really is a beautiful structure and boasts the only Netherlands certified windmill miller in the US.  She operates and does the general maintenance on the windmill as well as the milling.  Including the required internship it takes a number years to get certified and the whole process is done in Dutch. The colored dots off the left in the picture are people; That will help give you a perspective on size. They grind up several hundred pounds of soft white Michigan wheat 2 -3 times a month.

There are a small handful of touristy exhibits and shops on the property.  During tulip season there are several acres of tulips in bloom, but we missed that by over a month.  It took about 2 hours to go through the whole place and it was well worth the $8 ticket (each) at the gate.  I wouldn't drive 2 1/2 hours just to see it, but if you're in the area, I'd consider it a "don't miss" destination.

 The next touristy place we went was a place called Nelis Dutch Village.  It turned out to be a tourist trap in the worst sense of the word.  For a $10 entrance fee (each) you get to see some truly run down 60s era exhibits, a petting zoo with a small flock of caged silky chickens, a couple of goats, an ancient white turkey, and a few rabbits. (The other animals are plastic!) You get to shop in their gift shop plaza and, if you have little kids, risk their lives on some run down looking kiddy rides.

The only semi-interesting thing that happened there was a little argument I had with a stone-face Van Gogh over a painting he was working on.  He was pretty hard-headed about the whole thing and trying to get him to make some much needed improvements was like talking to a rock!  Anyway, Van Gogh aside, if you ever get a chance to visit this place, DON'T!

We stayed at a wonderful little bed and breakfast called The Crimson Cottage.  After checking in we went into the Holland downtown district.  By chance, Thursday nights in the summer is their 'happenin' night and over a 4 or 5 block stretch there were a dozen or street performers doing their thing.  We had a nice traditional Irish meal at an Irish Pub there, and just strolled around occasionally walking through some of the interesting specialty shops. That evening we stopped at Tunnel Park on Lake Michigan just a couple miles from where we stayed and watched the sun go down over the lake. 

Friday we did some antique shopping, and visited a very nice little dollhouse miniature place called Wee Dollhouse Shoppe.  We had a wonderful visit with the owner and De bought a few hard to find items.  Check out her blog at De-Lightful Minis (I have a link on my sidebar) to see some very cool work.  She's currently working on a project commissioned by a cousin for her daughter. 

It was great to get away, even if it was for just one night.  It helps you disengage from the daily grind and 'reset' your perspective on what is really important: The God of all creation, the mate He gave you to bless your life, your family, and just how nice it is to get back to a place of your own.  I am blessed!

Col. 1:9-12,


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Garden is FINALLY In!!

I'm on vacation this week from my 'full time' job and, as usual, wearing myself out catching up on projects around the homestead.  This is Tuesday and so far we have finally cleared and tilled up the two open plots (one about 20 x 40 feet and the other about 30 x 60 feet), planted them with corn, potatoes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini, and pole beans,  pulled the door off the barn and ripped off some rotted wood, and painted the barn. 

It feels kind of good to see progress.  Folks who follow the blog will have seen all these, but I'm loading 'then' and 'now' photos for folks who haven't been with me from the start.

So much to do!
Coop is done but look at the garden!  Eeek!

22 beds are in , but the plots are all pigweed, dandelions, lambsquarter, and quackgrass!!

Garden in and barn painted!!  What's next?
Sometimes I get asked by my suburbanite friends what we have in the garden.  Most of them think of a garden as a raised bed or two with salad fixings: lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and maybe some carrots and radishes.  Then I go through the list and usually hear "Wow, what are going to do with all that?'.  What usually follows is a discussion on canning and freezing.  Homesteaders won't be particularly impressed by this list, it's just what we do, but here's what is in the Hoosier Country Home garden this year:

Cabbage -8
Peppers -1 hot; 8 bell
Peas -4 rows in 10' long raised beds
Beets - 4 - 4' square beds
Spinach & lettuce -3 - 4' square beds
Carrots - 1 - 4' square bed
Bush beans - 3 - 4'x8' beds
Pole beans - 1-  4' square bed & 1- 25' long row
Corn- 21 rows split between the two plots (all about 20' long)
Tomatoes -30ish plants in 4 long beds
Onions - 2 - 3 1/2 foot square beds
Potatoes - 2 - 40' trenches & 6 volunteer plants
White pumpkins - 3 hills
Cucumbers -2 hills
Black zucchini -2 hills
Yellow zucchini -2 hills
Cantelope -3 hills
Butternut squash -2 hills
Stripetti squash -2 hills
Chives, dill, basil, sage, coriander, parsley, oregano in a fieldstone terrace herb garden
Strawberries in a fieldstone terrace bed
A raspberry plot that suffered a bit with the harsh weather
Some wild but tended blackberries just into the woods behind the house.
So what's next?  In no particular order:
  • First off, a couple days away with De to Holland, MI. on the east side of Lake Michigan.
  • Get the rotted wood around the barn door track replaced and door hung back up.
  • Weeding
  • Brake jobs on at least 3 vehicles. 
  • Finish working up some trees that I have down.
  • Weeding!
  • Turn over the compost pile.
  • Get the sprinkler system set up again.
  • Weeding!!
  • Finish an Amateur Radio antenna tower project I started two years ago.
  • Get all the hailstorm damage fixed.
  • Weeding!!! (And eventually harvest... but that's another post!)
As I've said before, there are always more projects than there is time to do them.  As I've also said before, we feel very blessed to have such a long list of things under our stewardship.

Col. 1:9-12,


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Catching up on things...

Lot's of things going on here in the spring and moving into the summer months.  Like everyone else, I suppose, there are more things to get done than time to do them, but one-by-one we're working things off the list.

I'll start with the garden:  We got all the raised beds cleared, planted, and where appropriate mulched. There are still two large plots to work up, but I should be able to get to them this week. We mulched with wheat straw this year and it seems to be fine so far.  I'm told you can mulch with grass clippings, and since I treat at least part of my lawn more like pasture and let it get long before I mow, I have them available.  I'd love hearing how well it works from anyone who has mulched with grass clippings.

I also got my water distribution post into the ground again.  Our garden is big enough that, if it stays dry for long enough that we have water, it requires several sprinklers.  I was simply taking the sprinkler from place to place for awhile, then got more sprinkler heads.  Even with more heads I still had to move the hose from one to another.  I purchased a commercial "T" that let me select which hose the water was routed to, but the throats on the valves were small enough it produced a substantial drop in water pressure.  A little head-scratching and a trip to my local hardware store yielded an answer.  I laid up a manifold of 3/4 inch galvanized pipe.  The hose goes into the manifold in an adapter that matches a regular female hose fitting to standard pipe threads. (Second from the right in my pic.) There are three outputs, although this year I may add more.  On each of the outputs is a wide throat ball valve (you have to look for that feature, not all have the wide throat.) and a standard male hose fitting just like the spigot on the house or in the barn.  In my case two outputs go to sprinklers and the third is for general use. Changing which sprinkler gets water is as quick and easy as closing one valve and opening another, with no noticeable drop in pressure across the valve. Adding on is as simple as removing one of the elbows on the end, adding a 'T' with another valve, and replacing the elbow.  I used galvanized pipe hangers to attach the whole thing to a scrap bit of 2x4 mounted to a 4 foot section of 4x4, and planted the whole thing next to the garden.

We also got part of the stone terrace beds planted.  The lowest level is an herb garden and the next one just to the left is a strawberry bed.  I still have 4 for terraces to clear and plant, but it's coming along.  We like this location because it puts the herbs (and yummy strawberries) right next to the house.

 Finally, on the chicken front, the pine tree roost is a hit!  Even though I saw (in pictures) roosts similar to this one before, this is the first one I've seen that uses a real tree trunk with all the branches right where God placed them.  (They may be out there, I just haven't seen them.) It's a little difficult to get a good picture, but if I get in with the birds and off into a corner I can get a pic that shows most of the birds on the roost.  They seem to be a little disgruntled at my poor manners in disturbing them with a flash picture while they are on the roost, but appear to be very happy with the roost itself.  It's nice to be successful as a newbie and it shows that even someone just learning the ropes shouldn't be afraid to try something different!

We are noticing there are a few birds that are always at the bottom, and some that are always toward the top.  We've read that the order of birds on the roost from top to bottom is a pretty good indicator of the pecking order.  We're starting to see, at least for the birds at the very top and very bottom, this is working out for us.

We're also teaching the chickens to come when called, at least when they believe it's in their best interest.  Using bread as a 'teaching tool' it didn't take long for De to have them mobbing her, begging and jumping for the next morsel, and following her around the pen.  We'd like them to get a bit bigger so they don't look like quite such a temptation to Abby the cat, but it seems a little bit of supervised free ranging could be in the plan for mid- to late- summer.

I've thrown in a picture of "Fred" our Golden Polish cockerel (our Golden Polish pullet is named "Wilma") just because he's a interesting looking bird.  I've also thrown in a picture of our Golden Lace Wyandotte "Henry", or is it "Henrietta"?  Can anyone help us out on that one?  Our birds are all about 10 weeks old.
Meet "Fred" the Golden Polish cockerel

Meet "Henry", or maybe "Henrietta".  Can anyone help?
I hope you all are enjoying your spring as much as we are.  It's wonderful to be out in the dirt and seeing God work the annual miracles of growth and renewal.

Col. 1:9-12,


Monday, June 2, 2014

Lie like a Dog! (Or is it lay??)

So I've been saving these up for awhile just for the entertainment value.  It's our dog Zyla. 
  • Some dogs have a pedigree so long they can prove beyond any doubt that "great to the umpteenth power" granddad dog nobly kept the raccoons from raiding Mrs. Noah's chickens while at the same time preserving their miserable lives during an extended family cruise.  Not Zyla, she came from the shelter and we have no clue who daddy, momma, or uncle Fido might be.
  • Some dogs have papers so perfect they can make a banking lawyer weep in rapturous delight for a week.  Not Zyla, her parentage is highly questionable at best. She a mix of Black Lab and, ... something. Likely two or three (or four, or five, or ...) somethings, and each of those are likely the result of shoddy backyard fences and low dog morals themselves.
  • Some dogs have risen to hypoxic heights of fame for their boundless dedication and heroic efforts to be forever memorialized in story and song: Lassie, Rin-Tin-Tin, Old Yeller, Toto, Benji, Spuds McKenzie, and Scoobie Doo.  Not Zyla.  And who names their dog 'Zyla' anyway? (Hint: We first brought her home as a companion to an older dog who has since passed on named "Angel".  (Get it?  Angel - Zyla, A-Z?  Hrmmph!  Moving on...)
  • Some dogs are highly trained and can perfectly execute a seemingly infinite host of jaw-dropping dog skills on command.  Not Zyla, unless you include the commands "breathe", "eat", "sleep", "dig", "go swim in the swamp", "beg for attention", and "get into something".  She's got those down pretty well.  
She's a pretty high energy beast, and likes to keep moving much of the day but when she's done for the day, she's DONE.  I mean eyes rolled back, snoring like a chainsaw, tongue lolling out done.  And then it gets,...  well...   odd.

Oh, well.  She's our dog and we love her.  Some things were created for sole purpose a bringing a smile to your face after a hard day for some season in our lives.  I think Zyla falls in that category.  We ARE blessed! 

Good Night, Zyla.  Sweet dog dreams! 

Col. 1:9-12,


Sunday, June 1, 2014

On to the next job or "My Fault!"

We all know a homesteader's work is never done and, truth be told, most of us like it that way!  With the coop done and the chickens acting all happy, we finally got a start on the garden.  We have 22 raised beds (I think I may have said 23 in the past), a 20 x 40 foot plot, a 30 x 60 foot plot, and 6 field stone terrace beds.  Since I turned a blind eye to all of them to focus on the coop they all got away from me.  This weekend, after several hard and hot hours, we got 12 of the raised beds cleared and planted.  We also got two of the field stone terrace beds cleared and one of them planted.  The pics show what we got done and, somewhat embarrassingly, how far we have to go.
Half way there!  Hog panel tomato cages and compost pile to left.

Bottom two beds cleared.  Near one - Herbs, Far one - Strawberries
This whole things falls in the "Mark's gotta 'fess up to being stupid" category.  I figure if I had taken just one hour a few weeks ago to give the garden some 'love' with a hoe, I wouldn't have to deal with quackgrass, lambsquarter, pigweed, dandelions, 3 inch cottonwood trees (really!) and a host of other evil stuff I can't identify.

The bright side, if there is one, is that I'm learning I have a new favorite bed clearing tool:  My heavy duty, four tined potato fork!  This tool really shines on the beds that have a lot of quackgrass.  The fork reaches down far enough to loosen the soil around the plants and drag up the roots to where I can remove the plant; top, roots, runners and all.   It's also a great tool to mix in compost as I bring it into the bed.

A Real Quackgrass Slayer!
Lord willing, I'll have all the beds cleared and planted before Friday, and next weekend we can focus on the plots.  The beds have the tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, spinach, cabbage, onions, bush beans, peas, beets, peppers and eggplants.  We have "permanent' beds of asparagus, rhubarb and horseradish.  We also have separate stands of raspberries (near the garden) and blackberries (just into the woods behind the house), and a couple of mulberry trees.  We're thinking the 20 x 40 plot will get sweet corn this year, and the 30 x 60 one will get pole beans, 3 different kinds of squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, potatoes and sweet potatoes (if I can figure out to grow them - we've never tried before.).   The fieldstone terraces up next to the house get herbs and strawberries.

We feel so blessed to have open space in the country where can keep chickens, grow a big garden, and let the lawn go a little bit without cranky neighbors giving us the 'stink eye'.  Now if I can just keep on top of it all!

Col. 1:9-12,