Friday, August 30, 2013

Garden-Grown Homemade Tomato Sauce

We cannot even begin to eat all of the tomatoes we've harvested this year. What a blessing that is, especially compared to last year, where we got maybe 2 a day, 5 on a really good day. This year, I'm routinely pulling 25-30 tomatoes every two days. All that donkey poo and chipped wood is really paying off.

So anywhoozles, today at lunch time I took about 30 minutes to make some DIY sauce. Deemed "rustic" by the recipe creator, this sauce comes out bright red, sweet, and VERY tasty. I got the "recipe," so to speak, from this page. I thought I'd re-post with pictures, and few details on my own modifications.

To make it MY way, I took a few big bowls of tomatoes, a 5-gallon stock pot, a NutriBullet, a plate with rounded-up edges (so them juices dern't spill), and a knife. Oh, and a bowl for putting the tops in. And a strainer for warshing. Gah! And some towels to dry stuff with. I think that's it. Oh yeah, and a stovetop.

Git all yer stuffs t'gither first, y'all.
Step 1: Cut the tomatoes and liquefy 'em.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Solving the Hay Spillage Issue

So at lunchtime today, I went to load up the hay that had been drying in the pallet hay rack. I find that when it's 90% dry, transferring it onto the rack for finishing works great. The air is dry in there, and the sun doesn't bleach it out too much. It's very very dry, but still has a slight greenish tint to it - not the sunburnt yellow.

But trying to cram all that hay as tight as can be into a 5-sided cube was a lesson in insanity. It just kept falling out.

Luckily, I have some spare lumber to lay across the opening:

This 2x6 holds the hayback.
With the crossbeam in place, I was able to stuff even more hay into the compartments.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cantaloupe Thief CAUGHT!!

I GOT HIM (or her)!
Caught you red-handed! or clawed.....
It happened quite by accident. I noticed a gaggle (or herd? flock? murder? who knows....) of turkeys passing awfully close to the garden, so I ran out to chase them. I swung by the garden on the way back inside, mostly to see if another honeydew was ready. Them BOOM! there it was.

This little thieving turtle....

Our Changing Landscape

Yesterday, I was up on the roof cleaning out the last remnants of nails and asphalt droppings from the roof reconstruction. YAY! One more thing to cross off the list.

While up there, I moseyed over toward the garden area and snapped this:

The garden is full of weeds and the orchard needs to be scythed. But, it's progress.
It reminded me of how far we've come in just a few short months. Contrast that with the bird's-eye view from June, and it looks like a totally different place. Kind of.

It's just neat to step back and compare all of the work we've done to see how we've moved forward, and also to see what we've learned. I am planning a "lesson learned in gardening" post to be released soon enough, as a reminder before we dive into next year's madness...I mean, insanity. :P

Monday, August 26, 2013

Garden's First Cantaloupe

Our cantaloupes are doing OK. The bed is covered in weeds, and the squash bugs are ever looming, unfortunately. We had a few fruits that got pretty big, then somehow imploded. I wonder if a small animal came by and thought the garden was a buffet. That, or else they got overwatered and cracked. Either way, I pulled a melon rescue mission and grabbed the ones that looked like they might be done. The broken ones (3 total) I tossed in to the chickens. They went CRAZY for them.

I've been letting the rescue fruit mature in the fridge. I cracked one open for a snack today. It was only about the size of a softball, maybe smaller.

Juicy cantaloupe, nom nom nom......
But wow. Great flavor, if a bit mild. It wasn't a strong cantaloupe flavor, but very full and sweet. I'd call it a light flavor. And it was really, really juicy. I have three more in the fridge, plus a honeydew. I wonder if the honeydew is a bit more developed. I'll find out soon enough.

The Rosary in the Bible: Part 3

Last time, we looked at the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, and how they are firmly rooted in Scripture, Luke's gospel in particular. Today, we dive into the next set: the Sorrowful Mysteries.

"But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness." -1 Corinthians 1:23

Christ's sacrifice on the cross is absolutely essential to the Christian faith.
The Sorrowful Mysteries concern themselves with the Passion of our Lord. And, again,they are deeply entrenched in the Bible.

My DIY Pallet Hay Rack

I love solving multiple problems with one solution.

I cleaned out the shed this Saturday, mostly to move the chick-u-bator to the back, stood up vertically, so I could get in and out without fearing for my shins every time. I had to clear out a stack of pallets to make room. I also needed a place to store more hay. So, I used the stack of pallets to build more hay storage. I used enough pallets to clear the stack out completely and make more room in the shed.

Ta da!! The DIY pallet hay rack:
My inventions ain't gonna be on any magazine covers, but they get the job done.
I like this design for several reasons:

  • It's sturdy. I used 2x4's laid across the tops of the vertical pallets to support the next levels. The horizontal pallets compress the vertical ones so they stand up straight on their own. I used some extra shims to brace it against the supporting beams of the shed.
  • Nothing is nailed or screwed, so it disassembles quickly.
  • To the right is a large flat surface for spreading out hay for additional drying and settling before storing in one of the compartments.
  • The spaces between the pallets allow air to get in between and keep it from getting moldy.
  • Behind each compartment is a fence panel, allowing for space and breathability behind the hay.
  • Even on the bottom, the pallets allow the hay to be lifted off the ground.
  • It uses the vertical space in the shed very well.
One downside is keeping the hay from rolling out of the front of the compartments. Still working on that one.....

I have no idea how many pounds of hay this will produce, and I really don't care to measure. If it feeds the friends all winter long, then it's a success in my book.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Rosary in the Bible: Part 2

Not THAT kind of mystery.
Last time, we looked at the six main prayers of the rosary, and where we found them in the Bible. Some were word-for-word recitations of Scripture (like the Our Father), and some were key ideas and themes developed from Scripture (like the Hail, Holy Queen). In every case, each line of text in each prayers has deep Biblical roots.

Today, we begin looking at the mysteries of the rosary.

To start off, we need to know what we mean by "mystery." We don't mean some kind of puzzle that we need to piece together to solve. We don't mean something with a clear answer that we simply need to ponder over and over again until we "get it."

A mystery in the sense of the rosary is a truth deeper than we can fully comprehend.

It's a long climb, but we can do it, one
rosary at a time.
As we pray and meditate on the life of Christ, we can plumb these mysteries of who Jesus is, how He came to be, why He came down for us, the meaning of His sufferings, etc. But we will never have a full and complete "answer" to these questions. We don't pray to try to "solve" the mystery. We pray for deeper levels of wisdom and understanding.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts." -Isaiah 55:8-9

We pray the rosary to try to close this gap, to climb toward heaven - to raise ourselves up to godliness through deep contemplation of the life of the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.

The first set of mysteries concern the joys of our Lord and those He loved.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Garden Update

I check on the garden during lunch today and picked a whole bunch o' stuff.
Lunch time pickings. Yum!
We got a red bell pepper that was fantastic, more okra (we'll need to fry it up here soon), a few small cucumbers (as the vine limps to its end), tomatoes out the yin yang, a few raspberries, and last but not least, some jalapeno pepper.

Not a bad haul for two days' worth!

The Rosary in the Bible: Part 1

Many people just don't "get" the rosary.

The most common thing I hear is that it's difficult to reconcile the Rosary with the Bible (especially 'round here in the South!).
But the Rosary is so unequivocally Biblical! It is not only, in large part, a recitation of Scripture, but it is also a meditation on the fulfillment of Scripture: Jesus Christ.
The rosary focuses on 20 "main events" in Christ's life, called "mysteries," with a meditative reciting of the Bible whilst contemplating the life of Christ.

The Rosary: Man-made craziness, or inspired Biblical meditation?
So let's break it down. I won't focus so much on the "how" of praying the rosary - that's been done. Today, we'll focus on the prayers themselves. Where is all this weird stuff Catholics are muttering found in the Bible?
As we'll see, much of the Rosary is literally word-for-word from the Gospels themselves.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tomato Season

The tomatoes are finally turning red.
Our weekend pickings: tomatoes, more cukes, and a lonely pepper.
As the cucumbers wind down,the tomatoes gear up. Funny how as I start to get a little bit tired of all the cool, crisp cucumbery goodness, the juicy tartness of the tomatoes bursts into the scene.

Mushrooms on the Mind

This wet season has caused lots of varied and cool-looking mushrooms to pop up all over the place.
A pod (is that the right word?) of mushrooms near the driveway.
It got me thinking about mushroom foraging, and what is edible vs. not.

Right now, I have no idea.

Hay There!

I love making DIY hay.
The hay I cut in the morning last week, raked and ready for storage.

My morning scything routine is fast developing into something I didn't expect. I figured I'd catch up on the overgrowth, but now I'm starting to think this could be a "thing."
I'm going to try combining that with my morning prayer.
It's kind of a "two birds with one stone" thing, but in working the land while I pray, it's a way to be more thankful in practice. It's also a way to acknowledge, in a very tangible way, that the gifts we have all come from God.
Plus, I get hay.
It's way easier to collect hay in the converted trash can with wheels and a lid
than it is to try to balance it all, and more more trips, with the much smaller wheelbarrow.
The problem is that holding a scythe requires two hands (despite my little tongue-in-cheek bio over there ->), so praying the rosary while scything causes my to quickly lose count.
So today, I'm going to try to find some audio prayers, put them on my iPhone, and use headphones tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Oh Vanity!

"And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow:
they labour not, neither do they spin." Matthew 6:28
In the stillness of this morning, I took a pause to visit the garden. I've been reading Ecclesiastes to Thing #3 before bed this week, too, since the other book is a Things #1 & #2 to be listening in on at bedtime.

Observing the juxtaposition of explosive growth and decaying vines within the cold, dark silence of a dawning summer day was an eerie feeling.

All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.A time to kill, and a time to heal. A time to destroy, and a time to build.A time to weep, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn, and a time to dance.A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather. A time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.A time to get, and a time to lose. A time to keep, and a time to cast away.A time to rend, and a time to sew. A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.A time of love, and a time of hatred. A time of war, and a time of peace.-Eccesiastes 3:1-8

Scything in the Morning

Birthday week plus exceptionally wet weather has made it difficult to mow the lawn. I use a reel mower for the "lawn" area, and it usually takes me a good two hour session to get it all. That is, when the grass is short enough.
Missing a mowing with the reel mower is tricky business, because it soon gets too long to handle in some areas. Certain grasses grow faster than others, leaving a few areas still mowable but many, not so much.
So, I've been getting up early this week to make hay.
A windrow from this morning. This was under the trampoline
for a few weeks, and was pretty long. I deftly avoided the
softball bat so as not to dent the blade.
For those not in the know, using a scythe on short grass is exponentially easier when the grass is damp. The extra weight keeps the grass in place so the blade can cut from the underside. Dry, short grass simply does not have the inertia necessary, and flops over and pops back up like a spring-based doorstop.

I have very much enjoyed the peace and stillness of the world at 5:45 AM. It's still a little dark, and out in the country, very silent. I've been using the time for prayer and meditation, interrupted only by my needy sheep bleating for handouts.

All in all, scything this much takes longer than mowing. I think the area that I can mow with the reel mower, at a light jog, takes about 2 hours. The last time I scythed this whole section took me 6. That's OK. The grass gets cut very short, and does take longer to regrow from a scythe cut than from a reel cut.

I've contemplated making this a permanent thing, but I'll need a longer grass blade to increase the efficiency. I'm using a ditch blade right now, which is shorter, thicker, and built for heavier brush. The grass blades are longer, thinner, and sharper, making soft grasses easier to cut.

In the meantime, I'll get some good hay made, get a light workout for the whole body, and contemplate the meaning of life, all before starting work. Not a bad deal.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Homeschool Thoughts After A Week

With one week under our belts and our new curriculum in place and beginning to churn forward, we're noticing some things about how it's been going.
The homeschool book shelf.
For one, the stress of memorization for the test is gone. The relief was visible on Thing #1's face when we told her we weren't going to be testing so much, but instead replying on projects and demonstrated knowledge.

Second, the interest in learning seems to already be higher than it has ever been. By investing in some high-quality books, we're getting away from the banality of "school books" and into some pretty exciting topics that are challenging as much as they are informative.

Third, the mundane "sameness" of a pre-planned, every-book-is-the-same-format curriculum is gone, replaced with a new way to learn for each subject. Non-fiction texts, image-rich encyclopedias, web sites, videos (soon), and notebooking are taking the place of read-and-fill-in-the-blank workbooks. The kids are much more engaged, and it provides a good mental reboot on each subject to feel and see a change in medium.

Fourth, we love Saxon Math. It's just awesome. Wife and I are learning to use it still. But the kids seem to be gaining confidence each day, they're already learning new stuff, and it's explained easily, resulting in much more efficient uses of time for all of us.

Lastly, the unit studies are gonna be great. We started at the beginning - literally. The Creation story and the Big Bang dominated science, religion, history, spelling, and vocab last week. The kids were even debating the theology of the Big Bang at dinner this weekend, even on Thing #1's birthday. That level of retention and interest is EXACTLY what we were going for.

Birthday Week

Last week we celebrated Thing #1's and Thing #2's birthdays.
Things #1, #2, and #3 enjoying one of many cakes.
With birthdays 6 days apart, it really is more of a family week-long extravaganza than anything.
This year, we took a field trip to Holiday World on day #2 of school.
Our super awesome trip to the amusement park made for a tired family.
Wife and I took turns riding with the older 2, and found some cool things (like the wave pool) for Thing #3 to play in. It was great.
More birthday week stuff after the jump....

Thursday, August 8, 2013

In, Not Of

I just came across some of Pope Francis' words:
"I left my jeans and tennis shoes in
my other bag."

"We need saints without cassocks, without veils - we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music, that hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints - saints for the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open sociable normal happy companions. We need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints."


Too often, we have this holy vs. secular dichotomy in Catholic circles. The Bible and the rosary are for prayer, and the basketball is for play.
That's the wrong way to think about the world.
This guy has had plenty of hot dogs
and beer.
We're studying creation in homeschool right now, and one key that I don't think I ponder enough is that God made the world, and it was very good. God made iron ore to be fashioned to steel, silicon to be shaped into microchips, corn to be processed into sweeteners, and so forth. Things like iPods, hot dogs, and the other cultural elements the Pope hints at are all made, by human hands, from God's creation.
Think about that.
Created by God. The work of human hands. Now where else have I heard that...?
I think the key thing here is that saints all become saints in the circumstances, time, and place in which they live. Saints are royalty, married, gun owners, kids in school, and have the common thread of being heroic in the practice of virtue within the time and place God put them.
Saints take every day, and sanctify it.
Saints take what God has given them, make it holy, and give it back.
Saints use their gifts, their resources, their possessions, but make the clear choice to not only not be possessed by their possession, but the choice to use those possessions in the service of God.

So the Pope is absolutely right - today's saints will eat hot dogs, drink Coke, have iPods, play football, drink beer, and be normal people.

The difference between today's saints and everyone else?
Today's saints will be giving God the credit.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Homeschool Starts Today!!

Unit Studies: The Final Frontier
Today marks Day #1 of our brand-new curriculum experiment roll-out. I'm especially excited about our unit studies with History and Science.
This first 4 weeks, we'll be exploring creation, the Big Bang, astronomy, the Flood, galaxies, and other "early universe" topics.
It works out well, because the kiddos have expressed a big interest in astronomy in the last few months as it is. So their natural curiosity and willingness to dive into a topic is going to be a tremendous help in providing fuel for getting this whole thing rolling.
It'll be very cool integrated the sciences with the story of creation from Genesis. The coolest part is how the science is totally in line with the Scriptures on this point ("Let there be light" = giant explosion. WIN!). It starts things off right for what we are accomplishing.
So excited!

Friday, August 2, 2013

No Time for Prayer? Wake Up a Bit Earlier!

"I want to,
but I can't...."
Lately I've been finding myself so busy that it seems I don't have enough time to pray (let alone blog like I want to). In fact, daily prayer is typically one of the first things to get jettisoned when the day is booked from 7 AM through 10 PM, like it has been here recently.
Between the day job, lawn care, housework, freelance projects, child & animal care, quality time with Wife, visitors, etc., etc., I am spent.
Worse still, I just cannot carve out time during the day to fit in prayer.

The solution?

Get my lazy tucchus outta bed a bit earlier.

I've been "snoozing" later and later to the point of rolling out of bed 5 minutes before work starts, throwing together a pot of coffee, and waking up whilst I log in to the remote system. This does not provide for a smooth start to the day, as y'all might imagine.
So this week, I have started getting up early and getting my prayer done FIRST.

It has made a huge difference already.