Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 is Winding Down

It is appropriate to take stock of the year as it draws to a close. As you reflect on the past year, what were the highlights in your life? What trials did you face? And even more importantly, what character lessons did you achieve in response to those trials?

Here are some tips (recommendations) for this season that come to mind:

1) Give thanks by returning a just tithe. Most financial cycles revolve around Jan 1, and now is a good time to check your increase and donations. "'Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.' Shall we obey God, and bring in all our tithes and offerings, that there may be meat to supply the demands of souls hungering for the bread of life? God invites you to prove Him now, as the old year draws to its close, and let the new year find us with God’s treasuries replenished." {CS 89.1}

"He tells us that He will open the windows of heaven, and pour us out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. He pledges His word, 'I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.' Thus His word is our assurance that He will so bless us that we shall have still larger tithes and offerings to bestow. 'Return unto Me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.'" {CS 89.2}

2) Give thanks for the health you have been blessed with, by ministering to those who do not have that same blessing. This past year our family has been visiting an elderly man in a local nursing home. This friends mind is strong, but his body is broken and weak. He appreciates our visits so very much. Do something for someone else who can not repay you the same kindness.

3) Give thanks for the Bible. Make 2014 a year of solid Bible study. I am working on compiling several
forms of reading the Bible through in a year plans, and I challenge you to read the entire Bible within this next year. There are many benefits for being deeply rooted in God's Word.

4) Give thanks for your farm and fresh produce. This time of year, you are using from the food stored from the past summer, and we all look forward to the coming growing season. We have just past the shortest day of the year (Dec 21), and from now on, the days will slowly but steadily lengthen. (Day length calculator.) In our area, February 1, 2014 is the date that our day length returns to 10 hrs per day. After this point, plants will start to grow again. That will be the time for your green houses and covered grow boxes to shine. Giving thanks means not just enjoying the blessings of good wholesome food, but also give thanks in sharing what you produce with others.

5) Give thanks for Jesus is returning soon. The babe of the Advent season is the King who is returning soon to take those who incorporate His law into their characters. And in that sentence, we have both an expectation, a hope, a salvation; but also a task, a goal and a mission. 1 John 3:2-3 "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure."

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Foreman

I came across an interesting story, that I think relates a lot to how we want to train our children-- to be capable adults. From cooking, canning, garden work, tractor work, or good old manual labor... we want our young people to be masters and able to lead.

So, here is the story:

"In some respects the pastor occupies a position similar to that of the foreman of a gang of laboring men or the captain of a ship’s crew. They are expected to see that the men over whom they are set, do the work assigned to them correctly and promptly, and only in case of emergency are they to execute in detail. 
The owner of a large mill once found his superintendent in a wheel-pit, making some simple repairs, while a half-dozen workmen in that line were standing by, idly looking on. The proprietor, after learning the facts, so as to be sure that no injustice was done, called the foreman to his office and handed him his discharge with full pay. In surprise the foreman asked for an explanation. It was given in these words: “I employed you to keep six men at work. I found the six idle, and you doing the work of but one. Your work could have been done just as well by any one of the six. I cannot afford to pay the wages of seven for you to teach the six how to be idle.” – ChS 70.2

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Planting Garlic

We planted 30 lbs of stiff neck garlic yesterday, and for lunch we savored each variety. I enjoy the varieties. Each has its own flavor and taste personality. Some have a mellow heat and rich flavor, others pop with an instant flavor.

Garlic likes rich, well draining soils. It is suggested that you rotate your plot each year to be sure there is not a build up of pests in the bed. The location we are using this year has never had garlic in it before. In preparation for planting, we tilled and smoothed the soil in the garden plot. We set out the paths per our tractor wheel base at 30 inches of bed space.

We broke the garlic bulbs apart, but kept the paper wrappers on each individual clove. A few hours before planting, we soaked the cloves in a nutrient solution of 1T baking soda, 1T Kelp liquid into 1 quart of water. Then just before planting, we dipped the cloves into undiluted isopropyl alcohol (70%). We have been told the alcohol dip will not damage the cloves, and may discourage bacterial and fungal influences.

For planting, we prepared a bed 30 inches wide, and within this bed we made 4 equal spaced rows for the garlic, approximately 6 inches apart. Within the row, we planted the cloves from 4-6 inches apart and at a depth of around 3 inches. Last year we had garlic cloves pushed out of the ground because of freeze thaw, so we have planted them a bit deeper this year (3-4 inches deep). Our plan is also to cover the area with straw and mulch. A friend has read that you should let the ground freeze, and then place the straw on the bed. This would help keep the ground shallowly frozen, and decrease the freeze thaw cycles during the winter. If you find your garlic heaving out of the ground, then you need to cover it with soil, and plan to plant deeper next year.

Varieties we are planting:
  • Chesnok Red, Purple Stripe
  • Russian Giant
  • Porcelain Musik
  • Porcelain Romanian Red
  • Silverskin S & H (softneck garlic)
The stiff neck garlic is a special, gourmet garlic. It brings a high price and is of excellent cash crop. It is easy to grow, and in our experience has few pests. I am not sure why the small gardener would not want to try it. If fact I think everyone should!

  • See our earlier post on garlic.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gardening lessons from 2013

This growing season has been a good year for learning, and gives hints of a lot more yet to learn. I thought I would record some of the take home lessons that I want to remember in the future, and that you may find valuable as well.

1) Weeds grow fast. Weeds hurt a garden. Removing weeds takes a lot of work (and sweat). Since the sweat of my brow is the title of this blog, I have put this item first. Weeding takes time, and there are critical periods to perform weeding where if you don't kill the weeds when small, they will forever later be an issue for the garden.

a) Wire cages make it really, really hard to weed inside the cage.
b) Row widths need to be wide enough to run a tiller down the path to help cut down the work. One foot of walkway may be harder to keep clear of weeds than 3 feet of walkway, if you have a tiller to help chew through the path, and throw dirt up on the weeds in the growing row.
c) Plastic ground cover does a very good job of keeping out weeds. We put down plastic for the first time this year. We used it under our sweet potatoes, and had very good results.
d) Wood chips are great for weed control. The occasional weed that does come up is easily pulled out.
e) Weeding the entire garden on a rotation schedule would be ideal, and not let it get out of hand. To be honest, I am not sure if I have ever had complete control of weeds to date, so this is a goal.

2) Wood chips may slow down vegetable growth rates. It is hard for us to separate out the cooler summer here in the north country but crop harvest dates are way late. Some of the difference seems to have been that we planted our melons in an area covered with wood chips. (Just to be clear, we moved the chips aside, and planted in soil, with the melons growing out over the wood chip area.

a) The climate over the wood chips may be cooler and slow melon development.
b) The wood chips may have interacted with the top layer of soil robbing it of nitrogen. Note we have taken great care not to till in the wood chips into the soil, so I was not as concerned about nitrogen loss.

3) Spraying with something is required to preserve the harvest. I started the year a bit optimistic, that grapes could be managed without spray. This was my first year for a grape harvest, and I have now been educated. I could handle the bugs with a vineyard small enough to manually police the vines on a regular bases, and manually destroying the Japanese Beetles present. But with heavy spring rains, our grape bunches developed black rot, and we lost about 50% of our entire crop. We would have lost 100% within another week, but I was able to halt the fungus with an organic spray of copper sulfide solution. Now I know this should have been applied proactively, not reactively.

Apple scab took out most of our apple harvest this year. I did not spray at all, and should have. We had two apples stay on one tree as our total apple harvest, and they were badly marked with apple scab. Apple scab is a significant issue, and I am not impressed with our apple varieties resistance. Only the Galarina seems unscathed by the apple scab. Crimson Crisp show susceptibility to leaf curl and apple / cedar rust. It is doing the poorest of all our apple trees. Complete leaf cleanup this fall, and early spraying next spring may allow a harvest next year.

4) Fava beans are not as easy as I thought when I exuded enthusiasm over them this spring. The seeds we obtained were not able to outgrow the weeds, and weeding that size of a plot was a lot of work. Then the aphids took over and crippled the plants, being so thick the entire plant would appear black. I did not want to apply any commercial bug killers, and did not take the time to experiment with soap sprays-- life being characteristically busy right at that critical time. The beans we did get to maturity were not easy to harvest, shell or clean. I did not get even one good meal out of that entire plot. We used it as a cover crop, and tilled it in. As a cover crop, it may have been more expensive for seed and effort than it was worth.

5) Progressive planting is required for progressive harvests. Duh. Failure in the first, leads to... you get the point. Some things this year were just so delayed, like a month behind. Long season items (watermelon, cantaloupe, peppers, tomatoes, etc) took a lot longer to start producing, and that likely is just the result of a cooler summer. But the progressive harvests were missed out on again. I think for me the challenge is back to the weekly schedule, and regularly planting.

6) Home grown peaches are a dream of lovely sweetness. If at all possible, try growing peaches. No sprays (yet), and we had a small harvest this year. I can hardly wait to see how next year sets. Perhaps this next year we will get some of our other fruits as well.

If I think of more lessons, I will add to the above. Did you learn any lessons this year? I welcome your comments.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Small Fruits / Berries

Eating fresh food from the garden is especially beneficial. And if you accept this idea, then you must with me conclude that there is something in fresh food that will degrade over time after harvest. Since the macro molecules seem rather stable, I can conclude that these beneficial elements must be the fragile phyto-nutrients and anti-oxidants in fresh food. A portion of our diet likely should be raw food. Note this quote:

"All should be acquainted with the special value of fruits and vegetables fresh from the orchard and garden." CD 312.4

If you study about the colors of foods, you will find some common health characteristics with the foods of a similar color. Try to have a rainbow diet: reds, yellows, greens, whites, blues, purples. Adding a lot of color variety will assure you are getting the maximum nutrition from your food.

There is a lot of scientific research related to anti-oxidant properties of foods, and how these protect the human body from really had diseases, like cancer, hypertension and atherosclerosis. We want to be healthy, not only for the reason of living longer, but that the quality of the years we do live will be improved. The end result of our lives is that we may daily do what best pleases the Lord. (Eph 5:10)

So let's just pause a moment, and survey some of the anti-oxidant research, and then see what foods percolate to the top of the list containing these helpful chemicals.

If you read just the titles, you will be impressed by the health benefits of these berries! This fall and next spring, we are expanding our farm into more berries, and will experiment with many of those listed above. Enjoy good health by expanding the colors of your foods, and make these berries a regular part of your diet.

In 2016, I planted two types of purchased Raspberries in the lower field:

  • Double Gold Raspberry
  • Joan J Primocane Red Raspberry


Friday, August 9, 2013

Seven Thousand

Think back to the story of Elijah after the Mt Carmel experience, during his flight from Jezebel's wrath. When he finally stops running, he is in Mt. Sinai, and God talks with him there. Elijah, what are you doing here? To this Elijah gives a list of problems, chief of which that Jezebel seeks his life! Then he says, Lord, I am the only one left. No one else serves you! (Read 1 Kings 19:13-18.)

God gives Elijah several tasks, and ends by saying "Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him." v.18.

When Elijah felt all alone, there were others, many others in God's service. We know that in our day, the close of earths history, God's true followers will feel alone and abandoned. So I think there is truth here in this story that will mirror our experience. There are lessons here that will be relived through our lives today.

Let's be frank. Those who want to serve God have always been a minority. We think of a straight and narrow path leading upward. While on the other hand, there is a broad and easy pathway leading the majority onward. Suffering and persecution is the hallmark of the experience of God's people, and on the surface, this is not the most compelling draw to the carnal mind. In the end times, many will be in lonely and solitary situations. We may not know of another person who is serving God till the very end. We should expect to have the same perception as did Elijah, that there is not another in the whole of the earth who is serving God.

But the Lord gently rebukes Elijah. The very question, "What are you doing here?" indicates God's ideal would have been for Elijah to have been back in Jerusalem. We can imagine there was a lot of work for God to be done in Jerusalem just after Mt. Carmel. But the one man called to that task was no longer there.

Perhaps Elijah made a jump in thinking, that because he was the only one called to represent God on Mt. Carmel, that he was the only one left in  God's service? Let us not make our singular calling equate to the strength of all of God's service. When things look the darkest, God is preparing a dawn. When there seems no way out, God will open a highway right through the middle of a sea. When called to the gallows, God may see fit to use your blood as seed for His kingdom, or He may with miracles rescue you. It matters not to us, but that we stay at our post. To continue at our duty, no matter what happens. Now I am not saying that God's people will not be on the move, as God may direct them. What I am saying, is that we much always be in the center of His will in all we do.

But let's go back for a moment and think of this time period of Elijah. What do we know of some of these seven thousand people? What are their lives like? What lessons can we learn from some of these select followers of God in this time of moral darkness?


There in 1 Kings 19:16, God has told Elijah to anoint Elisha, the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah to be a prophet in thy room. Surely Elisha is one of these seven thousand! What can we learn about Elisha? Let's read onward in the story.

"So he [Elijah] departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelth:" 1 Kings 19:19. This young man is working. His family has a large farm. For twelve pair of oxen to be working at any one time, tells me this farm is a large operation. Elisha has been groomed as a son to work hard, to organize the servants, to keep the flow of seed time, weeding, harvest, marketing and equipment repair moving along like wheels within wheels. To be a successful farmer, you have to have experience, forethought and organization.

When Elijah finds him, he is out in one of the many fields, planting. Have you thought about how hard the famine would have been upon this Godly family farm? No rain is one of the hardest things to handle, especially when you don't have pumps to move ground water around. Being a true follower of God, perhaps they had been blessed with some rain, but the story makes the drought sound universal.

To rain has returned a few days ago, and Elisha is busy. He had twelve pair of oxen moving. He is organized. He has eleven servants before him, and he is following, directing, organizing and supervising the work. Is this a person who would be a good choice for a leader in God's work? I think so!

And this is the kind of worker you and I must be. I would be remiss in not pointing out that God's best, come from a farm! There are few other occupations where you can be closer to God than by working as a farmer. And not only being a farmer, but a successful farmer at that. A farm large enough that you are required to work hard, to plan ahead. Every foot, every day! And to have time to pray that God will bless the efforts and ripen the harvest.

Little Maid

There is another witness for God in this same time period. Assyria to the north had taken captives, and among these is a young girl, taken to be a servant slave. She was likely under 16 for she is referred to as a little maid, but surely large enough to be useful as a servant. We don't know her age, but we was old enough to work, and therefore was old enough to know what had happened to her family, and why she was now a slave.

Most people today would think of this story as being impossible for a young girl to handle. How could she ever love again? How could she forgive those that took her into slavery and killed her parents? But this young girl shines for God, and demonstrates her belief in His prophets. What do you suppose her home life had been like before that murderous raid? Had her family been part of the seven thousand? I think so!

How else could this young girl have been prepared with a word in season for her masters care and well being? Her master was Naaman, the captain of the king of Assyria, and he contracted leprosy. She says "Would God my lord where with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy." 2 Kings 5:3.

She shows love for her master, and love for God. She is a beacon of light in a far away land. Her testimony and belief is enough to motivate this high official toward an official delegation visit to the prophet of the Lord, and in the end he is healed. But let's go back a few years. What was the home life of this girl like? How was she raised? The Scripture does not tell us plainly, but we can see the results of this training in the actions and character of this faithful servant. Do you see regular family worships, morning and evening? Do you see a girl who when given a task is able to complete it faithfully? Do you see a girl who has a personal relationship with God, so that when removed from her loving home, God is still with her? God is her God, and God's prophet is still His messenger!

May our homes and our families be ordered like one of these seven thousand!

So, what about today?

"The apostasy today is similar to the one that overspread Israel in Elijah’s day. By exalting the human above the divine, by praising popular leaders, by worshiping money, and by placing science above the truths of revelation, multitudes today are following Baal. Many are substituting human theories for the Word of God. People teach that human reason should be exalted above the teachings of the Word. They declare the law of God to be of no effect. The enemy is working to cause men and women to forget God’s provisions for the happiness and salvation of the human family." – RR 60.5

Let's enumerate these four sources of apostasy:
  1. Exalting the human above the divine
  2. Praising popular leaders
  3. Worshiping money
  4. Placing science above the truths of revelation
Do we see any of these in our day? Notice the end result of these conditions is to declare the law of God to be of no effect. We can see all of these at work in society, and the end result of making the law of God null and void.

I find it interesting that these seven thousand did not know of their true numbers. Some families may have associated together, but largely they were unknown to each other. I encourage you to draw close together with other Christian families and draw from God's Word truth for your daily life. Encourage one another and exhort each other into good works.

Consider starting an outpost where you can draw others into your home circle and give them a glimpse of the sweetness that Jesus wants to impart to all of his children. Draw warmth from the coldness of others, and if possible ignite a few additional coals in the service of God. May we make sure we do not bend the knee or kiss Baal, in all its modern forms.

So how many will there be? I read that there will be 144,000! That is over 20 times the number in Elijah's day. But even with this larger number, I don't think we will have the privilege of knowing each other beyond small groups. I hereby call a reunion in heaven! I am sure we all look forward to that day!

God bless you as you faithfully do your tasks in His service today. Don't worry with numbers, and trust that God's plan is best for your life. Follow his leading, and live entirely for Him.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Recipe: Ketchup

We want to eat home processed foods as much as possible. We want to avoid industrial and chemical processed foods as we are able, so we have started experimenting with creating our own condiments: pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise, etc. We are posting our recipes and experiences for others to stand on our shoulders, and see if together we can come up with something even better!

We prefer to not use vinegar in our cooking. We don't like the taste and I am dubious about the health claims touted about its use. It is created from spoilage, and I don't think rotted food or resulting products need to be a part of our diet. Just my view, I have nothing based in science to back this up.

We do not use a lot of ketchup, but it is nice on baked potatoes and I put a dab on a sandwich. So how to do you make home-made ketchup? Well, I thought it would be easy, but it is not as easy as you would think, especially if you are looking to nix the vinegar.

I tried making ketchup starting with several gallons of tomato puree boiled down to tomato paste. To be completely honest, I started adding ingredients against Sunshine's suggestions, and then I would add a bit more salt to cover the sugar, and so forth. You likely have gotten the idea that it came out a bit stronger than I prefer. I plan to start over with our recipes. Following are four recipes that a close friend shared with us. I hope to try them all, and if possible improve on them. My goal is to end up with a recipe that calls for raw tomatoes rather than tomato juice or paste as referenced in some of these recipes.

Here are the recipes for your review:

Ketchup - Mrs. G. (preferred by our friend who offered these recipes)

6 oz Tomato paste
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove fresh
1 tsp onion powder
1/2-3/4 cup water

Place all ingredients in container and stir well

Ketchup - Uncle George

Tomato Juice. 1/2 cup
Tomato Paste. 1/2 cup
Onion pwd. 1/8 tsp
Lemon jc, fresh. 1/3 cup
Brown Sugar 3. tbsp
Salt. 1 tsp
Garlic powder. 1/16 tsp
Coriander. 1/16 tsp
Flavored Season salt. 1/2 tsp
Blend above all together in blender.

Instant clear gel. 1tsp. Add to blender while it is running.

A garden vegetarian sandwich in a pita.
Ketchup- Mrs. B.

2 cups tomato sauce
1-6oz can tomato paste
1/4 cup sweetener
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp Braggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp basil

Blend all ingredients together until smooth.
Place in saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
May be frozen.

Ketchup - Mrs. P.

6 oz tomato paste
6 oz water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sucanat
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp basil
1/2 tap oregano
1/4 tsp garlic

Blend well.

Another attempt: (2013)

Well, it is a new harvest year, and time to experiment again with home-made ketchup. My goal is to start with raw tomatoes and not use store purchased tomato paste. Today we started with Roma tomatoes blended smooth, and measured out 4 cups of raw puree.

We boiled down the puree in a large sauce pan to tomato paste. (Take care not to burn it!) I am guessing we ended up with around 1 3/4 cups of tomato paste.

To the tomato paste we added:
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp brags aminos
  • 1 tsp Italitan seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Our testimony on this batch is that the entire batch was finished off before the end of one meal. (See pic above as proof. :) I think the mixture had slightly more salt than needed. Also I am not sure the Italian seasoning did much for the mixture. I will try removing it from the next batch.

Yet another try:

Emboldened by the success of this morning, I have enlarged the batch, and used some fresh ingredients:
  • 12 cups tomato puree
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp brags aminos
  • 1 Tbsp fresh onion (blend with tomatoes)
  • 1 medium garlic clove (blend with tomatoes)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cool Dry Summer

The weather in our neck of the woods has been quite a puzzle this year. We had a cooler and very wet spring, then a few weeks of really hot weather (90's) and Indian summer (pleasant days, cool nights) since then. It has felt like fall for weeks now. The really important factor for gardening has been the lack of rain for the past month. The weather has been so cool that warm living plants have not grown as well we are used to seeing.

Watermelons are a month behind last year. We have planted the melons amid the fruit trees which is wood chip mulched. Perhaps the wood chips are cooler for the vines to grow over, and we wonder if this is a part of their slow growth.

Harvests through August 6th
  • Strawberries, raspberries provided a great harvest.
  • Blue Berries provided a sample crop, which was tasty.
  • Tomatoes are in good supply, though we have not canned any as of yet.
  • We are getting plenty of green beans for fresh eating, but not enough yet for preserving.
  • Peppers seem slow, though there are some that have matured.
  • Beets have been good, but seem a bit small and have been drought stressed on occasion.
  • Potatoes are ready to dig.
  • Okra has been on for a few weeks, an d the supply is increasing as the plants enlarge.
  • Onions and Garlic provided a nice crop. We are not sure how well the onions will store over winter. Some may have been sun burned during curing.
  • Zuchinni squash plants have survived perfectly this year in the green house. No die off from squash vine borers! Pollination is by hand, which is a consistent task. Un-pollinated squash just shrivel on the vine like blossom end rot.
  • We also put our cucumbers in the green house, and they are climbing up a net on the back wall (see pic above). This is working well, but pollination (or lack of it) may be decreasing the volume of harvest. No cucumber wilt seen yet!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bee Hive Boxes & Frames

This year we are blessed to have seven active bee hives on our micro farm. We expanded till we had used all of our existing hive bodies and supers. So, we ordered some more un-assembled hive parts, and will post about putting them together.

We get our bee supplies from Mann Lake (, and they have a referral program that pays a small percentage. If you place an order, enter my "BeeBucks" number: 208208. Thanks!

Hive Bodies and Supers

The Langstroth hive dimensions were established in 1852, and I like this stackable system of hive growth and enlargement. There are two outside dimensions: one that will hold 10 frames (the most common) measuring: 16 1/4" by 19 7/8". The other option is the 8 frame body measuring 14" by 19 7/8". I started with the 10 frame size, and the parts are not interchangeable. I would go with the 10 frame size if I were starting out, as I have been able to pick up used equipment on occasion, and all the options I have ever come across are 10 frame.

We have two options for the height of the boxes, with the "deep" being the standard for the brood chambers, and deeps or the smaller "super" being for the honey collection. The only advantage of a smaller height is that the box full of honey would weigh less as you move it around for processing. For several years we only used deeps for all our boxes (brood and honey), but deeps full of honey are heavy! So this year we are trying some smaller honey supers as well.

The deep hive bodies:
  • 9 5/8" tall hive bodies
  • 9 1/8" frames
  • 8 1/2" foundation
The deep bodies and super boxes are assembled with glue and galvanized 7d nails.

The honey supers:
  • 6 5/8" supers
  • 6 1/4" frames
  • 5 5/8 foundation
The frames are assembled with glue at all joints. 1 1/4" nails are used to attach top bars and bottom bars to end bars. 3/4" nails are used to attach bottom bars to end bars or under the frame ear going from the end bar into the top bar.

Hive bases, screen boards, queen excluders, inner cover, outer covers are purchased assembled.

Bee Vacuum

We have made a bee vacuum, which has proved invaluable for swarm capture and hive removal. I will show you how we made ours, and offer to make one for you assembled if you would like. We will build and sell our assembled bee vacuum for $125, shipping included to USA street addresses. (Post a comment on this blog with your email address, and we will contact you for more details and payment info.) If you have the time and materials, it is not hard to make your own.

Our Bee Vacuum is composed of a top box with a connection hole for a standard shop vac to provide the suction. In the center of the unit, you place a standard hive body with frames to contain and occupy the bees drawn into the chamber. Then at the bottom there is a slanted board deep at the front where there is a hole for the bee suction hose, and shallow at the back to encourage the bees to draw up to into the frames. We use pool hose for our bee suction tube, it is smooth inside the hose to ease trauma to the bees in suction. The customer would supply their own hive body and shop vac.

Now let's look at the top and bottom unit in more detail. The top box is 4" in height, and has the outside dimensions of a standard 10 frame hive body (16 1/4" by 19 7/8"). The standard shop vac suction hose has a 3" diameter, and we cut a 3" hole into the back side of the unit. The lower surface, we install a fiberglass screen to keep any curious bees from being drawn out into the shop vac. The upper surface, we permanently install a Plexiglas cover. This allows you to monitor the bee density and activity from the outside, looking down through the screen into the hive body which is collecting the bees. Also into this top unit we install a suction relief valve in case the shop vac is producing more suction than you want. Opening this relief valve will bypass some of the suction.

The lower unit is the same outside dimensions, and 4" in height. This allows us to drill a 2" hole into the front face of this unit that will accept the pool hose. If any of the hose connections are not air tight, we use a round of masking tape which will seal up the mating surfaces. Pool hose can be obtained in 30' lengths, and we cut ours in two for a short suction hose, and the other being a longer suction hose. into the floor of the lower unit, we placed an inclined inner floor, sloping from the intake hole being its greatest height to very shallow at the back end of the unit. This slope gives the bees a convenient way to walk up the ramp and into the hive body and frames. The inner mating surfaces of the units have a weather strip as a gasket to help preserve the suction. The entire unit is held tightly together with a ratchet strap.

We have completed several trials of our bee vacuum with excellent results. After sucking up an entire feral hive, we found only a few dead bees in the lower unit. The bees remained happy and healthy to this day. Installing the bees into the bee yard is an easy process, as you do not have to transfer bees to a new box. We simply remove the vacuum top unit, and then move the bee filled hive body into its final position in the bee yard. The bees are already "home" when you vacuumed them into the hive body. We also really like being able to look into the vacuum and see how things are progressing during the removal, a feature we have not seen in any other bee vacuum out there.

We found it important not to suction bees that are coated with honey. In one occasion, we found this developed into a clump of bees in the middle of the suction hose. The pool hose we currently use is not clear plastic, so other than suction decreasing it was not immediately easy to tell what was happening. With care to not suck in honey covered bees, we have not had this problem again. When finished removing bees, we remove the suction tube from the bottom unit, and close it off so bees do not escape.Then you can turn off and remove the shop vac hose from the top unit. Keep all three units (top, hive body, bottom unit) all tightly strapped together until you are ready to install the bees in your bee yard.

(pics coming soon)

Candles and Soap

This year our family farm has experimented with bees wax candles and soap making. Our soaps contain honey and bees wax. We may consider selling home made bars of soap and candles, dependent on demand. We will make a separate post on these activities in the future.

Hive Activities for August

August is the perfect month to treat your hives for Varroa mites. There are several treatments that can be applied during the honey flow, and by treating your hives now, they will have several generations of strong bees going into winter. Strong bees as winter comes on means a more likely hive survival. I suggest formic acid and hopguard.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Reverence in the Sanctuary

[This post is written in the context of exhorting Sabbath worshipers to Reverence in the Sanctuary.]

Welcome to God's house! We have sung His praises, and we acknowledge being before the Holy of Holies. In this service we do not invoke, or call down, God's presence to come near. No, this is a papist teaching. This church sanctuary has been dedicated to God, and it is we who enter His presence.

Psalms 100:1-5
"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the LORD he [is] God: [it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves; [we are] his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, [and] into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, [and] bless his name.
For the LORD [is] good; his mercy [is] everlasting; and his truth [endureth] to all generations."

We are all familiar with houses dedicated to positions of honor and power. The White House in Washington, D.C. is an example. [Other countries have similar houses of honor and power, and you should substitute this example with a building appropriate to your location.]

The president of the United States lives in the White House. Imagine that you have been invited to an audience into the oval office. Think about what your deportment would be. How would you act coming into this house of power? Would the secret service agents have to chase our children away from restricted areas? Would our little ones be running through the halls or up and down the stairs? Would the honor guard have to ask us to be quiet in the back of the oval office, where we are not paying attention to the proceedings? Would our young people be doodling or reading other materials?

No, I think not. We would respect the position of power and honor of the occasion.

But how about us today? How about here in this, God's House? God has told us in Exodus 25:8 "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." Think of it, the creator of heaven and earth. The ruler of the universe. The originator of all time and space. This is the God that wants to commune with us, His people.

When we realize we are in God's presence, then we will act in a way that shows it. We are not calling for a stiff formalism just to impress others. We are talking about living in the reality of coming into the presence of a living, personal, all-powerful God. We come before a real being. We come into the throne room of a living, omnipotent God. Listen to this description, if we could see with open eye what is going on around us:

Revelation 5:11-14
"And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, [be] unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four [and] twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever."

We worship not only an omnipotent Creator, but an all merciful redeemer! The God of the universe condescended to live as a man and die for us. And we are gathered in the presence of this God!

Daniel 7:9-10
"I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment [was] white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne [was like] the fiery flame, [and] his wheels [as] burning fire.
A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened."

The scene here portrayed is the investigative judgement, which is now taking place. Jesus pleads for our cases just a little longer, and His coming is soon.

Let us glorify God in reverence. May our actions tell others around us and our visitors today that we believe God is real, and that His presence is with us today. We serve a living God, an all powerful God. A God who has invited us into His presence. May we show by our actions that God is here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Drip T-Tape

As mentioned last year in the post on watering systems, we have found drip tape to be an excellent way to go for efficient watering. I have tried several systems, and this is hands down the best in consistent delivery and ease of use.

I need to find an efficient way to store the watering system over winter, as for much of our fields, I wanted to remove the tape and feed lines to allow for tilling and soil preparation.

Below are the items we have used, and comparative prices.

3/4 Main Line:
  • Garden female hose beginning to 3/4" line connector - $1.50
  • 3/4 main line hose - $0.15 per foot
  • 3/4 hose tees - $2.66
  • 3/4 coupler - $1.22
  • 3/4 elbow (90 deg bend) - $2.10
  • 3/4 hose end plug - $0.80
  • T-tape - 8 mil - $0.04 per foot (weeps every 8 inches)
  • U Shape wire hold downs - $0.08 each, or $8.00 per 100.
  • Tape x .400 barb connector - $0.50 each
  • Tape x .400 barb connector with valve - $1.60 each
  • .400 barb goof plug - $0.35 each
  • Tape coupler - $0.64 each
  • Tape elbow - $1.50
  • Tape tee - $1.60

We have several hose timers which can help automate the watering process in case you are away on a trip. All in all, the t-tape system is very easy to use and trouble free. We are reusing all of our components, and they are holding up well for the second year.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spring Garden Record - 2013

It is time to start some plants growing indoors. If you live in the south, you may be able to sow cold crops now, but here in the north, we still have snow on the ground, and several inches of snow in the forecast. But the icy grip of winter is steadily loosening, and there is a hint of spring with day time temps above freezing, and some of the early spring flower heads poking through the snow.

March 1, 2013 - The glory of spring is coming.

To properly prepare, the gardener will be ready to plant some cold crops indoors, and be ready to transplant these outside in a month or so. For our area, the last frost date is mid May, and I watch the forecast, and sometimes sneak out a few days early. Sometimes we get a surprise frost, but a night cover will keep the plants alive if the frost is not hard.

Now is the time to decide what you will plant where in your garden this year. Make up a garden plot plan, and remember rotations if you are able to get two or three cycles of growth into your season.

March 8, 2013 - 5 flats of early starter plants. Some are 3" tall. I put a fan on them some this afternoon to strengthen their stems.

April 19, 2013 - Our indoor tomatoes and pepper plants are getting big even for the gallon containers they have been transplanted into! We are close to flowering stage on the tomatoes, and we are seeing some lower leaf wilt and death. This seems different than we have seen before, and is most pronounced in the carbon black tomatoes. Perhaps just a weakness of the heirloom variety, and the challenges of growing under lights and house temps. We had some snow fly today, but it did not stick. Lows predicted down to 31 degrees for the next two nights. Spring will come, but it is taking its time this year!

In our area we are now about 4 to 5 weeks till our last frost date, and this next week I plan to start tomatoes, peppers, egg plant and beans.

Note our Fava Beans have seemed slow to come up, but today they are poking their bean leaves above the soil!

Also a side note, we expect honey bee packages to arrive May 7, to enlarge our honey bee hives. Lots of rain the past few days, and our water catchment tank is almost full.

April 22, 2013 - We planted into the field 10 bundles of onion plants. This averages to 500 onion plants, in 3 rows. Since we bought the local stores out, we may plant another two rows later. I wish we could find a lower cost per bundle. These cost around $3.50 per bundle.

May 9, 2013 - Planted 50# in 5 rows of small Yukon Gold potatoes (1 foot apart, rows 90 feet long), and planted 50# in 2 rows of large Red potatoes. We did not cut the red potatoes this year. Actually our getting red's was a mistake. We found the YG to be a much better keeper than the Red potatoes. It started to rain as we were covering the potatoes, and it was nice to get all wet out in the rain.

Plants are growing well in the greenhouse. It does get quite hot in there when sunny. I will keep you posted how that goes. We may need to use some shade cloth.

Chitting some seeds this evening for planting tomorrow. Purchased 12 new pullets. (We have lost several laying chickens to a local fox, who has been visiting and collecting rather regularly. More on that soon, as we have to figure out how to make the run as secure as the coup.)

May 22, 2013 - Planted 8 hills of watermelon from among the fruit trees. This area of the garden is heavily mulched, so we pulled back the mulch and made a hill for the two plants each hill. Planted 90 ft of sweet potatoes under 3' wide black plastic. We obtained two varieties of sweet potatoes: 50 slips of Beauregard, and 50 of O'Henry, and planted them about 10" apart along the row. Packages of honey bees arrive tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


2013 is the year of the legume for our micro farm. We have a large planting of fava beans which are now starting to flower. In addition, we have planted a large number of other legumes for experimentation this year. Our varieties include:

  • Corn Bean
  • Cherokee Trail of Tears
  • Hidatsa Red Indian
  • Rattlesnake Pole
  • Tarbias Pole

  • Blue Lake
  • Fava
  • Purple Hull Speakled
  • Purple Hull Pinkeye Cowpea
  • Six Week Purple Hull Cowpea
  • Soya Bean Envy
  • White Rice
  • White Whippoorwill Cowpea

Legumes are excellent sources of protein. They are the primary source of protein for vegetarians like our family. They also have the wonderful ability to associate with bacteria and fix nitrogen into the soil. You can use legumes as a cover crop to increase nitrogen content and build humus matter in the soil.

As we harvest the legume crop, I will add to this article a more "complete" variety description, and confirm or update what others have written. I will also add images and try to give an idea of yield per foot row of planting.

These legume seeds were obtained through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Freeze Protection

On Monday morning, May 13, 2013, we likely had our last hard frost of this spring. To celebrate, we brought out all our laundry to cover the sensitive perennials and fruit trees. At one point, one of the boys said, Hey! This sheet was on my bed!

Late spring frost is a concern for fruit trees (ours were in full bloom), blooming strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and grapes.

Small plants can often be sheltered with an overturned 5 gallon bucket. The strawberries are low to the ground, and we just placed a tarp over the row/bed and secured the corners with buckets filled with water.

Our temps dropped from 31 degrees F at 6 am when I went out to check on things to 28 degrees F just before the sun hit the earth to warm it around 8:30 am. The sky was clear and wind calm. We had the classic radiation frost conditions.

A thin sheet is often enough to prevent frost formation on tender plant tissues, and preserve the harvest. This is possible with several hours of work on a micro farm like ours, but impractical for large farms. Local strawberry fields started irrigation the evening prior, and had an inch of protective ice on the plants by the time the temps rose.

Our 10 day forecast now stretches to May 24, with no danger of frost. The charts show our 10% probability frost date at the end of May, so I think we are fairly safe to set things out of the greenhouse into the field. If I am wrong, then we will have even more things to cover next time ;)


Thursday, May 9, 2013


I see one of my draft articles has come of age - and published itself without my ever finishing it! (Sorry for those of you who came and saw it in its rather raw form!)

Now that most areas of the USA are warm enough for planting, we need to think some about getting the crops to grow. I do not suggest adding a lot of fertilizer at the time you plant so your new plants will not be burned by intense amount of fertilizer. What is perfect is to add manures long in advance of planting. Even better, you could allow the manures age in a compost pile where they will break down and then be ready for use in the garden.

Fertilizers generally focus on adding nitrogen to plants during the growing season, but could address the addition of any needed substance for growth. For now, let''s focus on the addition of nitrogen to your garden plot.

A garden generally needs around 60 lbs of available nitrogen per acre over a growing season. Nitrogen can come from a variety of sources, generally of plant origin, or bacteria fixing nitrogen in conjunction with plants (legumes for example). I have started Fava beans this year, and look forward to this plant adding nitrogen to the soil for subsequent crops to use. There are so many good things to say about Fava, and I still wonder why I have not grown them before!

There are three ways to add nitrogen to your garden:
  1. Cover crops, especially nitrogen fixing crops
  2. Adding compost and manures
  3. Chemical fertilizers (ammonia compounds)

The first option seems to be the best. There are a lot of nice things to be said about manuers, but you may introduce new weed seeds to your garden. The least favorite of the three I put last. If not done properly, chemical fertilizers can sterilize your soil. The organic gardener wants to feed the micro organisms, which will in turn feed your crops. So take care when adding chemicals to your garden.

Following are some misc notes that for some reason I thought were earth shaking when I started this article some time ago:

There are 16 tablespoons per cup. Many commercial power fertilizers suggest using one tablespoon per gallon of water for fertilizing plants. In a 5 gallon bucket, this would be 5 T per bucket. To get ½ Tablespoon per gallon, put 2.5 T into a 5 gallon bucket.

So, did you do a soil test, and therefore do you know what your garden needs this year? Cheers for a fertile garden!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Nut Trees

Nuts are a wonderful food source. Nuts are high in energy, and have a shell that helps protect the highly nutritious nut inside. Native Americans used various nut trees as a diet staple, and perennial nut trees seem a sensible permaculture (permanent agriculture) addition to every homestead. Author David Bunker suggests the homesteader plant 5 to 10 trees each year.

Let's look at some of the nut trees that are popular in the USA. If you have experience with ant of these, or one not listed, please add your comment below.

This was once a dominant tree species in its range, but it has been decimated by the chestnut blight. New options of American species that are resistant are sold, as well as hybrids with a Chinese chestnut tree. These trees can grow to 70 feet tall, and withstand down to -20 degrees F.

English Walnuts
These are wonderful trees, but the nuts are encased in double layers of protection. Once you get to the nut flesh, then you will begin to think the effort was worth the effort. Actually, the English walnuts are thin shelled, and quite nice. I have had some where you could hold two in your hand and crack them together. The trees will grow 40-60 feet tall. Some may self pollinate, but plant at least two trees for good pollination. These trees are hardy in zones 4-8.

Hazel (Filbert) nut
These trees will grow in a bush-like habit, to 18' tall. They require at least two trees for pollination. The nuts are small and sweet meat. It is reported that may get nuts from two year old trees.

Shagbark Hickory
This native tree of America grows well from zones 4-8.
The tree grows slowly and once producing the tree can offer nut harvest for 100+ years. It produces a nickel sized nut that can be split with a knife in half and then halved again to easily remove the flesh from the shell. See the pictorial instructions on how to open Shagbark Hickory nuts.

We find the nuts are smaller than other nuts we use, but the flesh has a good taste, very similar to a pecan. They seem hardy and a large tree will produce a lot of nuts!

From what I gather, pecans may be relatives to hickory trees. One reference went as far as to call them pecan hickory trees. Pecans generally are considered warm loving trees. They are long lived and these trees grow to be very large trees. (Plan on this before you plant one!)

Pecan trees need both a specific range of warmth, and a specific range of chill. So you basically need to get your pecans from a nursery where you know is compatible to your climate. You would hate to wait 15 to 20 years to find that the pecan you planted years ago will not produce in your area! For those in the far north, I have a link in the resources below to a nursery that claims to be getting full nuts from a pecan tree in Michigan.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Fava Beans

Fava Beans are a new part of our garden experience this year. The more I learn about fava beans, the more convinced I am that I should have known about these botanical wonders long ago. These are closely related to vetch, and will not genetically cross with other garden beans. The cool thing is that these vetch plants grow fast and do well in cool weather. They can germinate and grow with nights below freezing, and are reported to withstand 15 deg. F. This is a cold hardy plant! Some varieties withstand down to 10 deg. F. before they winter kill.

Photo taken May 10, 2013; 47 days post planting seed.
It is possible in many areas to overwinter with these beans, and a very early planting may infuse the soil with nitrogen for later crops that can be subsequently planted as the season warms. To assure your fava have the needed nitrogen fixing bacteria, I suggest you purchase inoculant. Adding the incoulant is easy and will help assure the fava grow well. A retailer suggested I use "N-Dure inoculant for peas, vetch and lentils." Protect the inoculant from sunlight or high temps. Wet the seeds, and gently mix in the inocument, coating the seeds. Plant the seeds immediately.

Fava have a long central tap root that helps to break up clay soil. This is exactly the kind of plant that would be helpful when converting raw land to a crop field. Fava beans can be incorporated into the soil at flowering time if you will use the entire crop as a green manure. If you allow the crop to go to seed the plant stems will have grown larger and tough. Incorporating mature plants into the soil will likely require more mechanical chopping to physically break it down.

I plan to let my fava crop run through to maturity, as I want to see how these beans taste. I have read that there is a membrane around the bean that has to be removed. Some references talk of streaming the entire bean pod, and then shelling out the beans individually as you eat them. Some people eat edamame beans this way. I have heard of fava humus being very good, and perhaps for the humus you don't have to remove the inner membrane.

As you would expect from a miracle plant, people also eat the tender green leaves. It can be placed in fresh salads, cooked soups and a variety of other dishes.

The ground was dry enough to till the patch were I want to plant fava beans this year. Perhaps I will plant fava seed tomorrow, even though it will be 38 degrees F. I will post some pics when they come up.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Acceptance vs Performance

I recently heard a sermon in which the speaker used a poster board with two words written on it: "acceptance" at the top, and "performance" at the bottom. These two words were contrasted as a true and false way to look at salvation.

Some today would emphasize a form of salvation in which the only thing man must do is to accept God's gift of grace. Taken to its extreme, this emphasis would teach that acceptance and performance are in conflict with each other, or have nothing to do with each other. They would say only believe, and continue sinning. God's grace covers you, no matter what your performance or intent!

Acceptance of God's gift of salvation is the first step. Our action or performance is not a precursor to God giving His grace to mankind. God's Spirit must first touch the heart for mankind to have the impulse or desire to accept salvation. So the first act of the sinner coming to Christ is to respond to the call to accept salvation. The immediate benefit of salvation is forgiveness from the penalty of past sins. The story of the dying thief on the cross illustrates this immediate bestowal of the promise of salvation. "You will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:43. This portion of the call to salvation extends forgiveness for past sins, and places the sinner at a clean starting point. The call of salvation contains the empowerment of grace and forgiveness.

Is there anything more within the call of salvation? We accept the call, and then we must heed the call. So what is this call? The call of salvation is to become like Jesus. "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." John 17:17. The call is to holiness and a life of purity actuated by the power of God. The call of salvation is for us to be like Jesus. The intent of the call is that we perform. In the instant of accepting salvation, the empowerment of grace is for mankind to resist the character qualities that are at enmity against God.

God loves us and accepts us the way we are, but loves us too much to leave us there. And in this perspective, acceptance is not in conflict with performance. This is not an "either / or" situation. In fact, we can not have acceptance without performance. The two are linked into the same call. They are two tones that blend into the chord of salvation's call. I fear that some would cut the call of salvation of God into parts. Some would accept the gift of grace, but discard the purpose of the call. There is danger of separating these two tones as separate and distinct from each other, or even to present the idea that they clash with each other in disharmony. Remember, God loves you too much to leave you in sin.

From the pen of inspiration, "Even one wrong trait of character, one sinful desire, persistently cherished, will eventually neutralize all the power of the gospel. Every sinful indulgence strengthens the soul’s aversion to God." SC 34. "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" James 2:20.

So when we talk of salvation there is no need to contrast "acceptance" and "performance". They are two tones within the same beautiful chord. Neither acceptance or performance are based on man's ability, but both are the result of committing our will on the side of God. Neither have one shred of self sufficiency or self righteousness.

May your heart accept the free gift of grace, and be empowered to commit your will to the prompting of His spirit. May we be like Jesus in all we do.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Joy of Modesty

Modesty is a joy.

In modesty I am talking out the entire way we carry ourselves. It is in how we act and how we dress. Modesty is a precious thing, that I feel it needs to be dusted, polished, and returned to its rightful place in our families.

Our physical form has public space and private space. To be modest means you value yourself enough to protect the private space for your spouse. The focus of modesty is to draw others attention to the public space, and minimize attention to the private space. With that broad principle, you can make your own applications to what is appropriate in action and dress.

But you have to realize that there is a gender difference in what draws the attention. As a generalization, females are drawn by physical touch, and males are drawn by visual cues and form. Males should take care to not draw out affection via touch (1 Cor 7:1), and females should take care to not draw out attention via suggestive dress or exposure of the private spaces (Job 31:1). The male mind has a wonderful ability to fill in spacial patterns. It is part of what God designed in the brains of men. When presented with the rounded leg shape of the thigh (in pants or especially bare) the male mind is drawn to where the spacial pattern meets at the crotch. The male mind does the same spacial patterns related to the female chest when exposed by a low neck line or buttock with skin tight clothing.

Ladies have no need to see men's underwear because of low hanging pants, and men have no need to see the crisp outlines of women's underwear hems through their pants. Looking at modern dress, we see little left to the imagination. Both male and female dress styles seem bent on evocative skin exposure. If clothing does happen to cover the skin, then it is drawn so tight as to be "skin tight" and negating the covering of the skin at all. But does this exposure preserve the joy found in modesty?

It seems to me that there is a deep beauty in a man being properly dressed in appropriate attire, to represent Jesus in his interactions with others, and even that his clothing could be in agreement with the focus of his life. There is a special blessedness seeing a woman in a modest dress, with length well below the knees. My eye is drawn to the radiant face, and I know there is extra beauty preserved within. She is saving herself for the one who would prize and cherish her most; for the one to whom in God's blessing of matrimony she belongs.

And in this modesty there is joy.

Living in the day close to the coming of Jesus means that we have a higher standard to reach than before. "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." Rev. 16:15.

There are some action items I would like to suggest:
  • Each of us would do well to evaluate the message our clothing portrays, and allow this inspection to yield the best possible sermon that our clothing could present to others. We are bought with a price, therefore we are God's not our own.
  • I suggest that married men compliment their wives on modest dress. It is not easy for women to buck the world's fashion system. They will appreciate your support that they are wearing dresses, and knowing you appreciate their saving themselves for you. Let them know you value them.
  • It would be good for fathers of young women to share their appreciation of modesty. I would hope this would be more in the line of praise and affirmation rather than rules. To have a young woman decide to save herself from the hands and eyes of others is a truly precious thing.
  • I would like to see male peers affirm modesty in young women. I think it also good to have young women let the boys know that they like it when the boys care for their clothing. A little positive peer pressure can go a long way. I remember when in high school a young lady paid a compliment on my clothing, and it was surprising to see how much more important my dress became to me after that ;)

I have no interest in suppression of women, or in making them subservient or of lesser importance. I think modesty in its proper setting elevates and ennobles manhood and womanhood  It shows the appreciation of their innate value, and wanting to preserve and protect it.

Cheers to the beauty and joy of modesty!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Spring into Gardening

This evening it was a pleasure to host the community event: Spring into Gardening. We visited for 2 hours on topics from planning your garden, sowing seeds, transplanting into soil, harvesting and seed saving.

There were a lot of great ideas from the group, and it was great to dream about spring time planting. It will not be long now before we start seeds indoors!

Tips gleaned from the class:
  • You can use two ordinary 5 gallon buckets, a small container and a piece of pipe to make a subterranean watering garden pot. The outer bucket holds the water, the inner bucket holds the soil. The bottom of the inner bucket has a hole to hold a cup or container that will extend the dirt down into the water reservoir below. A 1" or smaller feed pipe will go from the inner bucket down to the lower bucket to easily refill the outer bucket's water supply.
  • If you make a raised bed out of lumber, do not used treated lumber. It has chemicals to keep it from rotting that may not be the best for your soil and contact with food.
  • If you make your own potting soil from your garden soil, pasturize the soil by heating it to 180 degrees F. for 1 hour. Then mix in equal parts of compost and sand. I like to have some peat moss as well to lighten the mix.
  • Make a plan to start something in your garden this year. The more you try the more you will learn. Make gardening fun for your family, and don't just add another summer activity to your busy schedule. Rather replace TV and Internet with outdoor gardening.
  • Being self sufficient is a skill we need to know, and only recently has the knowledge of how to survive on our own been lost from the general population.

Outline of the presentation:

5 Reasons to plan a garden!
  • There is a blessing in working in the soil. There is something really peaceful and rewarding about growing your own food.
  • God created a garden, then made man to tend it. We can find ourselves close to Him in a garden.
  • Gardening and it's lessons are for character development.
    • Trust in an all powerful creator
    • Patience – plants grow slowly
    • Plants need care and tending just like our children do
  • Gardening allows you to brighten your environment with green plants and colorful flowers.
  • Gardening allow you to be more self sufficient – Save $ and improve your health.

Your Goals for Your Garden:

My personal goal is that each person make a definite plan to grow something on your own – something new that you have never grown before.

Young people: If your family already has a garden, I challenge you to have at least one plant that is all your own to water and to care for.
  • So, what are your goals for gardening?
  • Remember to take into account what time and resources you have available.
  • Decide what produce you want to grow. What vegetables you would enjoy consuming with your
    family, and plan to grow some or all of them!

Types of gardens:
  • You can have a window garden, and enjoy green plants and salads growing from a window.
  • You can have container growing, with the focus on one or two plants per container.
  • You can try a raised bed, and put mulch down in the pathways to reduce weeding work. If you don't want to bend over, you can add height to your raised bed to make working in the planter even easier.
  • You can mark out a garden plot with string and still plant in beds, but not have the wood side walls of a raised bed.
  • You can incorporate flowers as a focus of the garden, or as a border around it. Make your garden space beautiful!
Your garden method will be best for you, and just your own. Doing anything in the soil is better than succumbing to the sterile, impersonal existence the mastermind of technology would like to foist on us.

Soil Preparation:

No matter the size of your garden, you will want to prepare the soil. Your goal should be a fresh dirt area of loose soil. Starting seeds indoors does well with a loose potting soil. If you dig up unimproved soil from your yard and bring this inside to start your seedlings, you will have more problems than starting them in sterilized potting soil. Seeds germinate best in loose soil.

Seedlings indoors are easily attacked by fungi and bacteria. Have you ever had seedlings pop up and then when an inch tall, form a dark ring at soil level on the stem and quickly die?

If you cannot afford potting soil, then you can pasteurize your own soil and loosen it by adding compost, sand and some peat moss. One bag of peat moss should make a lot of potting soil! Mix it in as needed to keep the soil light and not too compacted after a week of watering.

Soil Testing:

Soil testing can help you to identify deficiencies in your soil. You can read about how I worked with soil tests when I started a new garden plot. I don't suggest the do-it-yourself testing kits as they are poorly calibrated, and the point of getting a soil test is to know what you need to add to your soils. Soil tests from a commercial lab are under $20 and I think it is a good investment for a new garden plot.

Obtaining Seeds and Planting:

If at all possible, I suggest your using locally adapted seeds – that means a seed swap with others in the area, using heirloom seeds, or saving your own heirloom seeds from year to year. This is really not all that difficult, and you get the benefit of being able to select the traits you appreciate and have even a better variety next year!

Focus on true breeding seeds for your garden. F1 Hybrid means that the seeds produced from the hybrid parents may not be true to form. We suggest your using Heirloom or True Breeding seeds. You can easily save these year after year. Save some extra seed each year (don't plant it all) in case you are are not able to gather your own seeds, but liked the variety. There is more on seed saving earlier in this blog.

Keep track of what you plant – and what your seedlings are. Labels can be simple – using reusing a plastic knife with writing on it, to fancy – with plastic or metal labels

In the north, I suggest starting seeds indoors, and getting a little jump on spring. You can use simple containers like plastic cups with slits in the side walls set on a plastic tray, to the more "professional" (ie expensive yet efficient) seedling starter trays.

One of the things large growers have enjoyed is the soil blocker, where 2" cubes of soil are pressed into a form, and then set into a plastic tray for seed starting.

Commercial Seed Suppliers we Suggest:

Number of Seeds per Tray:

So, how many seeds do you plant in a plant slot or block? I suggest two or three seeds so you can select the most hardy one. Do not allow more than one seedling to grow as they will damage each other as you separate them later. You have to be ruthless in your thinning, and you will find one is generally stronger than the others.

Indoor plants need lots of light. A sunny windows is great, but may not be enough. Grow lights within 2-3 inches above the plant to keep it from becoming leggy. It has been suggested that you change your bulbs each year, as they can quickly loose their lumen power. I have not done this yet... Also it is suggested that you don't need expensive full spectrum bulbs. Rather you can use two cool and two warm bulbs in a 4 bulb fixture, and come off with a lower bulb cost. Use recycled fixtures when possible.

Remember that these tiny seedlings will grow, and need a larger pot of soil, perhaps every 2 weeks! You can easily have 36 or more starts on a tray, but when you go to gallon containers, a tray will only hold 3! So make sure you will have the room and number of lights to supply the plants that you start.

Some have suggested that plants started later will catch up to ones started early, so other than extending your enjoyment of working in the soil, take care to not make too early planting a burden.

Plant on a Schedule (and often):

Regularly in planting is important. If you want to harvest something each week, then you need to plant something each week. You do not have to plant a full seasons row of beats at one planting. Plant some each week, and then enjoy fresh garden produce all summer long! This is not to say you should not do large plantings for canning or winter supply, but more for your fresh eating, you have a constant supply of fresh food from the garden. Work "eating from the garden" meals more and more regularly into your meal schedule.

Seven Tips for your Upcoming Garden:
  • Don't bite off more than you can chew. It is easy to get a lot of seeds, but remember that plants need some garden space and garden space needs weeding and watering. Our excitement today needs to be tempered with the reality of tomorrow.
  • Plan your garden space. Plot out what you can grow on that space and enjoy the process.
  • Start plants indoors to get a head start.
  • Protect plants from pests. Deer can be a problem! An electric fence works well. You could even bait the fence with some metal foil coated with peanut butter. One lick should send the deer running and hopefully not to return! Row covers are lightweight material that can keep bugs off, but allows light and rain through.
  • Weed and water regularly. Check for water needs 3 x per week. Weed the entire garden area each week. 
  • Harvest when ripe for best nutrition and health-giving qualities. Plant enough to be able to share and get to know your neighbors.
  • Save seed for next year. And save some extra to swap or give away.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Efficient Heating

In the middle of winter in the north land, we sit around the stove and think of planting in spring. It is true that burning with wood heats you up several times: 1) to cut the wood, split it and stack it for drying, 2) Moving the dry wood staging it for ready consumption, and 3) to be heated with the fire of your wood burning appliance.

But how efficient is that wood burning appliance? Are you sending a lot of heat up into the winter air, and therefore having to gather a lot more each winter than if you had a more efficient burn process? Well, I guess that is a simple formula to agree to: the more efficient, the less wood you have to burn. Burn efficiency is really determined by your stove design. One you have the stove there are some things you can do to help. I will review the things we all can do to improve any stove, and then I would like to speculate some on the most deficient stove designs that could be created.

Principles for any stove to work its best

The type of wood you have available will determine how much heat or thermal energy that wood can release when burned. Hard woods have more internal energy than soft wood. There are interesting wood thermal charts like this one. Considering the situation where you are heating your home with the wood you have on your land, you may not have a choice between selecting hard woods for your fire (say if you are in the far north or west, and have only soft woods available.) If you have a choice, hard woods will give more heat per unit volume of wood, and produce less ash. Some soft woods have so much pitch, they are hardly worth using for firewood.

What we can all do is make sure our wood has been allowed to dry well before use. The key to getting wood to dry is splitting it (opening up the grain) and stacking it where it has good air flow through the stack. Keeping rain out of and off of the wood pile is also very important. I prefer to do most of my wood cutting in winter and early spring while it is still cool outside. This would give the wood 9 to 14 months to dry before use which is ideal.

Another factor is that wood burns more efficiently if split into smaller pieces. A portion of a round will burn more cleanly than a large and intact round. The balance of this is the effort it takes to split the round, so take this for what it is worth in your situation.

Principles for making an efficient stove

Most of us can not go into the stove creation business, but I must admit, I want to build my own wood burning stove. There are options for the adventurous. Have you every heard of a "thermal mass heater"? These are large (massive) stone or cob structures built into a home through which the exhaust from a fire passes. Most all of the exhaust energy is absorbed by the mass of the structure, and by the time the gasses exit from the chimney the air is warm but no longer hot. This makes for a very efficient stove, considering efficiency being measured by how much heat is captured in the home compared to the total released. Many of these stoves work best with a smaller hot fire to heat the mass, which then radiates this heat throughout the following hours maintaining a comfortable room temperature.

For an efficient fire burn, you need small sized fuel. You also want the burn chamber to be hot. So hot that the volatile gasses from the wood completely burn. For this to happen the temperature of the burn chamber must be around 800 degrees F. One idea is to have the combustion chamber enclosed in an insulative material. You can also preheat the burn air by the intake air passing through the coals (to warm it) and then provide the air of active combustion above. An insulated chimney directly above the burn chamber gives a place for the volatile gasses to mix with oxygen and any remaining gasses to burn. This also improves the air draw and air flow through the combustion chamber. This design is commonly called a "rocket stove" which holds a lot of interest.

Putting these two ideas together, and you have a "rocket stove mass heater".

Before I get too busy with spring planting, I think I will play with some designs, and see what I can come up with. I will add photos to this post as I go along. (so check back for this article).

Stay warm!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Refugee Garden

I am not sure which of us thought of it first, as we have been kicking this idea around for so long. What about making a market garden training center focused on helping refugees? Refugees are people displaced by war & social unrest where they have had to flee their home country and try to start over in a new place. Refugees come to this country and are faced with a lot of traumatic life changes. They are in a new country, with a foreign language, customs, concurrency, employment system, etc. They are often familiar with agriculture in their home countries, but here in America they almost always occupy low paying menial jobs. Refugees often settle within the inner city of large urban areas. The children learn English faster than the parents, and role reversal upsets the family order. When old enough many of these refugee children join the military to master violence that they can use in the wars back in their home country.

Sunshine and Harvest have a dream of ministering to others via agriculture in a country setting.

We dream of a garden where refugees can come in peace and till the soil for their sustenance. Where they can work in agriculture  and do what they know how to do best, and stay connected as a family unit. Where they can learn English, grow produce for their family and to sell, earn an income for their family, and participate in producing wholesome food for their communities.

We are thinking about a project that would mentor and train refugees in a skill and open the door to an entrepreneurial, self employed business. We see better profit margins in organic growing, with strategic marketing to local consumers and outlets.

We dream of being able to minister to the soul and live out an expression of Biblical simplicity of a life of service.

We realize we don't have the required knowledge, or financial backing to make such a plan work. But we are thinking about how God will use us. Right now it seems more practical for us to minister to refugees here in the USA than go to a foreign land as a missionary family. We hope to touch people here that could then someday return to their home countries with the beam of Gospel light radiating from their hearts as well.

We are not the first to think of this idea. Following are some refugee gardens we want to learn more about