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