Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Gotta" go to work?

Things at the Hoosier Country Homestead have been pretty much the same over the last week.  The green beans are producing, the tomatoes are still coming in, and everything else is looking pretty good given its weedy condition.  The chickens are cranking out eggs and complaining (bitterly) about being thrown out of the tomato beds.  There is, as always, plenty of work to be done and it’s that ‘plenty of work’ that I’ve been pondering this week.

I’ve been reading through the book of Ecclesiastes in my morning ‘quiet’ times and have noticed something of a recurring theme in the first 5 chapters.  Ecclesiastes is not a real popular ‘read’, but as you may or may not recall, this is the book that contains the “There is a time for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:” passage.  You remember:

“A time to be born and a time to die,
  A time to plant and a time to uproot,…”

This passage, made popular by The Byrds in the 1965 classic “Turn, Turn, Turn”, usually gets the spotlight for this book but it is something else that has captured my attention. 

As Solomon, pretty much universally considered to be the writer, is pondering the value of earthly things apart of God he goes through the list of everything generally thought to be of value and worthwhile.  The list is pretty much the same today as it was some (almost) 3000 years ago when the book was written.  Wealth, pleasures from the sensual to the “good life”, accomplishment of great projects, prestige and position, and a few others.   He comes always to the same conclusion:  “...everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind, nothing was gained under the sun.” 

Tucked in among the lists of things he’s considered and the ‘everything is meaningless’ verses is the thing that has caught my eye:  It appears, in some variation, four times in the first five chambers.  It goes like this in the third chapter.  (For those who care, this is out of the NIV.)  “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.  That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift from God.”  In other places it appears as, “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.  This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?”

It is so popular and so easy for us to look at ‘work’ as a four-letter-word.  We look forward being “off work” and to “retiring from work”.  We complain about work, look for better work, try to avoid work, buy things to reduce our work, and all the while wonder why we ‘just aren’t happy’.  Work is more often than not considered something bad and something good to be done with.

The thing I have noticed in this book is that it is not the accomplishments that come from our work that are to be our satisfaction, it is the work itself that is to be our source of earthly fulfillment.   I don’t know about the rest of you, but this is a pretty easy thing for me to forget when you’re outside on a very humid day, fighting off mosquitoes while trying get your early potatoes dug, garden weeded, or critters taken care of.

But still it is there in the Bible and, contrary to the popular culture and, too often my own short-sightedness, I believe it to be true.  I’ve been trying, over the last couple of weeks, to slow down while I’m working, just for moment, to be "in the moment”.  I take these intentional moments to thank God for work he’s given me to do, and  to ask for strength and wisdom enough to do it all for His glory.  As I look out over the place I can see that there will be plenty of opportunities between now and winter for me practice being thankful, just for the work.  We are blessed!

Col. 1:9-12,


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Harvest from a "Weedy" Garden

As you may have noticed by my lack of posts, this has not been the wildly productive season I had hoped it would be.  It's not like there is any one, big disastrous event that kept me away from what I wanted to be doing, but there was a whole string of smaller things that kept me out of the garden and away from the computer when the garden really needed some "love" and the blog really needed some posts.  Some planting happened late and some not at all.  Posts were few and far between.  Mulching the beds, adding compost where needed, tilling up the plots, all the normal early garden maintenance just didn't get done and, as a result, we ended up with the weediest garden we have had in a lot of years.  Your blog posts came and went, occasionally unread. Obviously not "the end of the world as we know it", but still a bit disappointing.  And yet, yesterday De and I went to our weedy garden and picked green beans, harvested tomatoes, carefully plucked egg fruit plant off the spiny stalks, broke off cabbages, and pulled up onions.  And I'm posting again!  Even though the weeds are still everywhere, God has given De and I an abundant increase.

I couldn't help but think, as we were pulling our harvest out from among the weeds how similar the garden this year has been to our life this year.  Our lives, from winter on, have not gone as we had hoped.  There was no single 'big' thing that went bad, but it was a season (or two) full of "weeds": Illnesses major and minor, family and community obligations and challenges, lots of extra work at the 'day job', bad weather when the few 'free times' came along - all "weeds".

Lest I give the impression this has been a season of misery let me assure you we have not been miserable at all.  Frustrated at times perhaps, but never unhappy.  Some work was completed and some was not.  Some hopes were realized, and some were not.  A few goals were reached and many will wait until next year, or perhaps the year after that.  But when we stopped to look, we could see the growth in amongst the weeds.  Children and grandchildren alike are maturing even through, and perhaps because of, the tough times.  The 'day job' seems to be secure for as long as I want to work.  The church is growing, and our small group is growing closer.  De and I are both slowly finding physical healing.  There is produce coming in from the garden.

Through all the 'weeds' we see God's hands not only revealing the growth but providing an abundant increase.  As we sort down through all the 'weedy' things and look carefully, we see not a just a few meager things barely surviving, but an abundant harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and occasionally a beautifully ripened, perfect red tomato. We are blessed.

Col. 1:9-12,


The "Helpers" are a bit 'put out'

In my last post I had noted that in the spirit of "better late than never" I had figured out my tomatoes were not being bug eaten just as soon as they turned red, but that the "chicken helpers" were helping themselves!

To that end I spent a little time at the local farm store looking for options.  What I ended up with was essentially snow fencing.  I got the orange color even though it comes in a nice summery green just in case I ever want to use for... Oh, I don't know... maybe...  snow, and want to see it from a truck or tractor.  I got the 100' roll but by the time I figured out how the fence was going to work I would have been OK with the 50' roll.  One company VP I worked for years ago used to say "Ready, Fire, Aim".  The idea was just DO something mostly right and tweak your solution along the way.  I find I follow that path a lot.

In any case, here's what I ended up with:

It seems someone feels a bit 'put out' with this new turn of events.
I was able to use a hog panel for a "people gate".
The four corners are regular steel fence posts, and the posts in the middle are the temporary fencing kind.  It's not what I would call "pretty", but its working.  I left the remaining fencing on the roll and just strapped it in place.  Quite coincidentally I assure you,  the distance between the steel posts on the end almost exactly matched the length of one of the 12' hog panel sections I had.  Thus we had a "people gate" that is easy to open and close, and still quite capable of keeping the chickens out.  A goat would laugh, cattle would scoff (if they cared), hogs would hardly even notice it, but it works great for my chickens.

Since then De and I have began to reap a reasonable tomato harvest.  It's not been been an ideal tomato year from a weather standpoint, but we're starting to enjoy them instead of the 'girls' snacking out on the juicy, red lusciousness.  Again, I probably should have seen this coming, but we'll get a fair crop this year and will be all set for next.  Live and learn, as the saying goes.  I guess I'm just a wee bit smarter now!

Col. 1:9-12,


Monday, August 10, 2015

A Month of Catch-up!

Back again, with apologies - again.

As you might guess, it's been a busy month.  The last post I did was just after De's foot surgery.  I took one week off work, and after that kind of had a juggling act going.  Between doing the cooking, a bit of cleaning, helping with ice packs, hot drinks, cold drinks, some extra goings on at the 'day job', the garden, the chickens, the pets, Church obligations, and family obligations, and trying to get my SUV out of the body shop I was consumed.

Just to get caught up:

  • First - After about 5 weeks De is out of the post-surgery boot and doing reasonable well.  She is still quite sore, especially after spending time on her feet.  She goes back to work tomorrow (she's a Teacher's Aid at the local Elementary School) and I am praying it goes well for her.
  • Something like week after De got out her boot. Daughter #1 rolled her ankle at work.  She's now in an identical boot with was first thought to be a high ankle sprain.  After two painful days and another trip to the Doc they found a hairline fracture in foot bone.
  • The little chicks we had last time I posted - Grew up!  They are 9 weeks old now.  The darker one, which we are guessing is a pullet, is a Golden Polish-Easter Egger cross.  The lighter one, which we believe is a cockerel, is a Golden Polish - Buff Orpington cross.  As soon we are sure the one is a cockerel, Fred the Rooster - who has been rather ill-mannered lately - will be off to "freezer camp".  There now resides a sizable stick next to our front door known as the "Fred Stick".  He seems to know better than to give me a hard time, but women and children have about a 25% chance of having Fred try to bully them.  I can hear the crock pot calling his name louder and louder every time he misbehaves.

The "Kids" up on a perch in the run.
  • The garden, weeds and all, is doing pretty well:
The peas are done now, but we got plenty for fresh eating.

The helpers approved of the my efforts and left the peas alone.
The pole beans went from this...

... to this.  And they are VERY easy to pick in from the vertical trellises!
As always, there is someone there to help us out.

And we got a pretty decent first picking!  Those are 5 gallon buckets.
  • Mark, once again, got smarter and not necessarily happier.
Our tomato plants are huge!
Our tomatoes are doing great but seemed to getting bug eaten as soon as they turn red.  To make a long story short, I discovered the culprits are not bugs.  It seems the 'chicken helpers' are helping themselves.  By the end of the week they'll be a fence.

  • I traded a bunch of unused rebar for a hoop house garage frame.  I need to get it staked down and then I can get the covering on it.

It's a long one-car garage size.  The mower and other things out the barn will live there.
  • I need to catch up on everyone else's blog. <Looking forward to that>
  • I need to keep up my posts.
  • The yard still needs to be mowed. < sigh >
  • There is a lot of landscaping that needs some 'love'.  < sigh >
  • There is a LOT of work to do at the 'day job'. < double sigh >

Despite all the trials and challenges everyone is doing pretty well.  Pretty much everything that needs attention will be there tomorrow.   We are STILL very blessed.

Col. 1:9-12,