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Some Vacation Bible School pictures July 31, 2008

Posted by Joe in Faith.
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Here are few more pictures from last week’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our church, Bethel Free Will Baptist Church.

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Benjamin (letter B) helped to kick off the program with a song about Admitting, Believing, and Confessing.

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Rachel and several other girls gave a wonderful rendition of “I know my God is real.”

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Lydia enjoyed the program while sitting in Gram’s lap, wearing another smocked Grams’ original that had once been Rachel’s.

Rachel’s profession of faith July 30, 2008

Posted by Joe in Faith.
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But Jesus called to them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”  ~ Matthew 18:16-17

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We feel very blessed to have such a wonderful, God-fearing church just around the corner from Blessed Acres Farm. It was one of the many reasons we felt led here almost four years ago. Our pastors speak the truth with love. And the youth pastor does an amazing job with the kids.

For the past few years, Rachel has been learning memory verses and repeating many of the basic tenets of our faith. A few weeks ago that she put it all together, confessed her sins, and accepted the free gift of eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. We, of course, were beside ourselves with joy.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear my children walking in the truth. ~ 3 John 1:4

This past Sunday, Rachel made a public pronouncement of her faith by being baptized in front of the whole congregation. It was a special time for all of us, especially since it was during the culmination of Vacation Bible School and all of her friends were there to witness it. Grams, Aunt Sheryl, Aunt Brenda, Uncle Grady, and cousins Kay and Witt were there, too, to celebrate with us.

Praise be to God.

A Pleasant Surprise July 23, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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It’s always exciting to come out in the morning and find there is new life afoot on the farm. Tuesday morning, I had that treat. On my way out to fill the stock tank, this is what I found.

This Barred Rock hen found a safe place to hide out and set eggs. She showed up with 9 chicks in tow. Aren’t they cute?

Earlier this spring, I had hoped for a hen or two to go broody so I could give her turkey eggs to set. No volunteers stepped forward, so I abandoned the idea of restarting our turkey flock this year. We know that there are 2 hens trying to set eggs under the nesting boxes in the henhouse right now, but this isn’t one of those two. We don’t know where she had made her nest.

When a hen goes broody, she stops laying eggs and stays on her nest. It’s possible to get her over her broodiness without the satisfaction of motherhood, but it can also be a hassle. If you take her eggs away from her, she will often just claim a new pile over and over. I speak from experience when I say you don’t want to mistakenly crack into a partially set egg. It’s usually just easier to let the prospective mama do her thing and be sure not to collect any eggs from her nest. You sacrifice egg production for a bit, but you end up with more layers and/or birds for the freezer later.

Using Goats the Way God Made Them, part 2 July 22, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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About 3 weeks back, we moved the goats to an area that badly needed new permanent perimeter fencing. The three strands of barbed wire were sagging and loose, but the brush that had grown up along it made it nearly impossible to work. Joe fashioned a paddock for the goats that gave them access to both sides of the fenceline (it is technically set in 4 feet onto our side of the property line anyway) so they could eat what they like best and help us with the awful job of clearing it. Using electric wire, he gave them a long narrow section to feast on and created a cow paddock on the remainder of the pasture. The experiment turned out pretty well.

Here is a close-up “before” picture, with Cookie in the foreground.

Here is an “after” picture with the saplings visible.

Pretty good, huh? The only thing we did between the two pictures was that Joe went through and whacked down the remaining bare stalks from that tall stuff to make it easier to walk. You can see that the goats ate every green thing they could reach, making trees from what used to be over grown shrubs.

It was not a complete success, however, but that was our fault in retrospect. When we moved the goats to this new area, they no longer shared a common paddock with the cows. The mineral block was in that paddock and it hadn’t occurred to us to make sure we immediately got another. It had been a while since we had wormed the goats, too, but had seen no signs of any problems.

Shortly after the move, I noticed that Lightning seemed to be resting more than the others. We got him up, nudged him to walk, but saw no evident signs of illness or injury. The next day he was dead.

I consulted with a very knowledgeable friend Beth who keeps dairy goats. She said that this has been a bad year for worms (she and several other people she knew have lost some- even whole herds) and suggested I check for anemia. She was right. We immediately wormed them, got them a new mineral block, used diatomaceous earth, and began running electric fence for a new paddock. Unfortunately too late for the other wether Snowball. He succumbed a couple of days later.

We are pretty well read on anything we try our hand at, but this was one of those times that experience would have been more valuable. Though we knew about worms and anemia in theory, in practice we didn’t catch the signs fast enough.

It was a bit of an odd time to have this sudden epidemic of worm-related problems. The area that the goats had recently moved to has never had goats on it as far as we know (or at the very least, for 3 1/2 years). That means there shouldn’t have been any worms already there for them to pick up. In theory, it was a pretty sterile area. We suspect now that they had a fairly high worm load when we moved them, but access to the iron in the mineral block had kept the anemia in check. They may have been overwhelmed when they weren’t getting the iron supplement anymore.

I thought it was interesting to watch the other goats when the 2 sick ones began to lie around. Shortly before each died, the others formed a semi-circle around the ill one and “talked” to it. Once, when I walked up, Crackle was “speaking” in a “tone” to her son that I’d never heard from a goat before. She was using a low horse nickering kind of sound that seemed to be either encouragement to get up or for comfort. But oddly enough, when we went in to carry out the deceased ones, none of the others paid any attention or seemed concerned. Hmmm…

Benjamin and Rachel were unhappy to lose Lightning since they had watched him being born, but they were particularly sad to lose Snowball since he was their favorite. We’ll learn from this, though. We now have 5 does left- 3 mamas and 2 daughters.

The opening of camping season July 14, 2008

Posted by Joe in Scouts.
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The camping season is upon us! Last week, Benjamin and I, along with 2 other adult leaders and 8 Scouts from Benjamin’s Pack, went to the Boy Scout’s Boxwell Reservation for Webelos resident camp. In all, there were probably 150 Scouts and 100 leaders there with us.

We arrived Monday around lunchtime and stayed through Thursday lunch. Despite the frequent rain that fell during our stay, Benjamin had a great time. He earned 4 activity badges while there – the Outdoorsman, Readyman (first aid), Aquanaut (swimming and water safety), and Scientist badges.

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Here’s Benjamin practicing CPR on a clearly distressed patient.

Austin, Benjamin, Cameron, and Ethan learned to tie knots, put up tents, and fire safety in the Outdoorsman sessions.

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This totem pole marks the entrance to the Indian Village.

Even with all the work that goes into earning the badges, there’s still some time for fun and play.

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Benjamin and the others could spend hours defending this castle from evil-doers.

One the hallmarks of the camping trip is the closing night camp fire. It’s full of skits, songs, and laughter. The highlight of it, however, is its grand finale. All of the active duty military, veterans, and retired military are honored for their commitment and service to our great country. A worn and tattered American flag is respectfully retired over the camp fire while taps is bugled by a Boy Scout. No one could leave the ceremony without feeling full of pride for these United States.

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When we returned home on Thursday, there was little need of putting our gear away. We had another overnight camping trip scheduled for Saturday.

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It may look sunny in this picture, but once again much needed rain found its way to our temporary accommodations. We needed it, too!

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Benjamin caught this largemouth bass in the pond.

Whew, that was our 3rd trip in as many weeks! I’m glad to be home, sleeping in my bed for a while! There’s another one coming up in a few weeks; I’m hoping Rachel will join us for that one.

Blueberry Picking July 12, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Farm.
5 comments

Bright and early this morning, we got up and headed out to pick another of the treats of summer- blueberries! We donned our bug spray and sunscreen and tried to get a jump on the heat and the late sleeping you-pickers that would come later. We went with some friends and had a great time despite the humidity and the 94 degree temp. (When I put it that way, it really makes you wish you were third trimester pregnant and standing up for hours outside in the heat, huh? But really, it was mostly shady, there was a nice breeze often, and the company was great. We’d like to do it again.)

Benjamin got up under the bushes to find the ones missed by others.

Rachel was ambitious and selective about which ones she picked.

Lydia went for the “low hanging fruit,” but mostly ended up with green berries in her mouth and nothing in her bucket.

She was happy to share my bucket, though. She mixed the berries around, squashed them, compared them to everyone else’s, dumped them on the ground, picked some of them up, and ran off with the bucket. What fun!

Here is one of the baskets we came home with today, proudly held by a kid that can single-handedly put away pounds of fruit in a sitting.

The blueberries are going to be eaten fresh, frozen, made into jam, and possibly syrup. We didn’t leave many ripe ones for the folks that came later., but there were plenty of pink ones enticing us to return. We are thinking about going back next week to get another batch so we’ll have enough preserved to give as gifts, too.

Using Goats the Way God Made Them July 11, 2008

Posted by Laura in Homeschooling, Scouts.
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We’ve had a bit of rain this week, but the deficit is still noticeable. The grass in the refenced pastures is turning brown and has been eaten down very low. It is imperative that the animals get into new paddocks, but we haven’t been able to refence them yet. The spring growth along the old fenceline has made a terrible snarl of brambles, saplings, and honeysuckle vines. In the heat and humidity, clearing that is a truly awful job requiring bushhog, chainsaw, loppers, pick-up truck, etc. We decided to employ the goats instead.

Joe weed-eated and chopped enough away to run temporary electric fence on the first section of it. Then he and the older children sunk the posts. We turned (or in some cases, wrestled) the goats into their new paddock. The goats looked around in awe and elation and then disappeared into the thicket. We’ve scarcely seen anything but back ends sticking out occasionally since.

Benjamin was handy with the post-driver for the T-posts.

After Joe cleared an area to run the wires, Rachel helped him step in the posts. This was the “tame” side of a new enclosure. What’s behind them will be cleared sometime in the future.

Crackle surveys the grass in front of “the jungle.” There was a good 10 feet at least of this tall stuff, then the blackberry brambles, then the honeysuckle-entwined fence when we first turned them in. Within 2 days, all that was left of the tall stuff was a canopy of leaves.

You can’t tell it, but there is a herd of goats back there. When we go outside in the morning, we call our hellos and faceless voices call back from the shadows.

Getting Into a Jam July 7, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family, Farm.
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It’s July now.  That means drought and heat in TN, but it also means that the homestead fruits are coming in. While Joe cleared a path for a new electric fence and Lydia napped, the rest of us picked wild blackberries along the fenceline Saturday.  We’ve got tough kids-  I heard hardly a complaint from them about the plentiful thorns.  Benjamin was very disciplined this year- he put a lot more in the bucket than he ate this time.  I also collected about 8-10 pounds of red plums from our trees.  While Benjamin gave Joe a hand outside, Rachel and I made our first homemade jam.

The plums were small, so half of each was pit.  About 80 plums later, we had the necessary amount of fruit in a pot on the stove.  We added the sugar and Rachel dutifully stirred and stirred and stirred.  When it had reached the gel stage, we put the jam in the hot jars, screwed on the hot lids, and put them in the water bath canner Beck gave us some time back.  As the jars cooled later, we listened for that beautiful pinging that means the lids have sealed.  We ate the jam that didn’t fit in the jars for breakfast Sunday morning.  Yum!

Sunday afternoon, Rachel and I were at it again with the blackberries.  Ten cups of berries yielded 4 more pints of jam, but with nothing left over this time.  That brought frowns from the guys.  It somehow doesn’t seem right to open up a newly canned jar of jam so soon, but I imagine no dust will gather on these.

New Grams’ Originals July 6, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family.
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Grams made these beautiful dresses for the girls a couple months back but we are just now finally getting a picture posted so they can be properly appreciated. Aren’t they lovely? We get so many compliments when they wear them to church. Alas, I fear the days of Rachel’s willingness to wear pretty matching dresses will come to a close all too soon. She is drawn toward rhinestones and high heels- even young girls’ clothes are designed to look far too mature for them now. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

Thanks Grams!

Big Kids Like to Play, Too July 3, 2008

Posted by Laura in Family.
4 comments

You know, after you repair a flat, you HAVE to check it out yourself to make sure it’s safe! It wouldn’t be right to put unsuspecting children on a dangerous toy. The product needs a lot of first-hand testing.