Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring Cleaning with Little "Angels"

Truthfully, they're not so little anymore.

But my six youngest and my friend's three youngest children (the littles in their respective large families) tackled the back yard today.  

The garden was a mess. If you look carefully at the following picture, you'll see the garden fence, with lots of stuff that needs to be raked:

There was paraphernalia left over from finishing off the siding last fall.  There was an old door, tossed aside when the back door was replaced.  There were weeds and dry old vines and rocks and bits of glass and screws and nails.  Lots of junk to clean.  UGH.

Here you can see that the fence has been removed, and the garden area has been raked and cleaned.  

Elena is rejoicing...we're almost done:

Josh, Dan & Pat took turns driving the tractor around.  Here's Joshua taking a turn.  

They gathered garbage, taking it to the burn pile.  They pulled out the fence, which we plan to re-install after we till and make our garden about 50% larger than last year's.  They pulled out two posts that used to belong to our old wooden swing set, which collapsed a couple of years ago under the weight of a fallen maple tree.  

Linda, Elena, Tiana, Jessie and Joy used rakes and shovels to get rid of weeds and debris.  They worked tirelessly for hours, making a dreary task fun by working together.  

Christopher did lots of running for the older kids.  He picked up some nails and screws.  He ran and got buckets when we needed them.  

"Job well done, kids!  Now it's time for a tea, but just let me get a final picture of the back yard.  C'mon, everybody line up so I can get your picture."

"Aww, do we HAVE to?"  (Half the kids had already made it inside...)

"Naww... it's okay...I know you're tired.  Snap."  

Monday, March 30, 2009

Patrick is now 17!

My goodness, that boy has grown!  He used to be a cute little blonde-haired, blue-eyed imp.  When he was two, he didn't often disobey outright.  He just quietly did what he wanted to do ---> drive his Tonka truck onto the highway!  

Broken bones, burns, and an operation for a hernia did not keep this little man down.  And here he is, now 17, taller than his dad.  He'll soon be off to work with his brother for the summer as a bricklayer's helper.  I'll sure miss him.  I told him he'll have to wear his new t-shirt every day:

Happy Birthday, Son!  We love you!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Granny Miller's Monthly Gardening Plan

Granny Miller has a feature on her blog called "Ask Granny", where she answers questions about food, gardening and farming. I compiled a list of her gardening chores month by month. For her original post, go here.

Gardening Chores from Granny Miller - Zone 5




  •     Spend January looking through garden catalogues;
  •     Read and plan!


  •     Start spinach or lettuce in a couple of pots on a sunny windowsill.
  •     Ordering seeds, fruit trees or nursery stock


  •     Ensure garden tools & equipment are clean and in good working order.
  •     Prune apple trees, brambles and grapes.
  •     Start cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts in a cold frame.


  • Spray Apple trees with oil dormant spray.
  • Sow oats.
  • Clear farmyard and garden of debris.
  • Rake and burn debris.
  • Divide and move perennial flowers.

  • Plant onions and peas as soon as the vegetable garden is dry enough.
  • Plant cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, radishes, lettuce and kale.
  • Plant new asparagus beds and fertilize old ones.
  • Plant new strawberries in April and bare root fruit trees and roses.
  • Check herb garden for any winter die off. Cut back plants. Chives are first!
  • Plant sweet peas
  • Enjoy the daffodils.

  • Clean out fishpond.
  • Plow in the middle of April.
  • Start tomatoes, peppers or any other tender vegetable or flower annual from seed indoors or in a hot bed, the middle to end of April.


  •     Continue with basic garden chores
  •     Apple trees begin to bloom.
  •     Tulips and lilacs bloom in May
  •     Grass first needs to be cut
  •     Make sure that strawberries, onions and asparagus are well mulched.
  •     Pick first asparagus in May.
  •     By the middle of May the garden gets well rotted horse manure and is tilled.
  •     Roses are pruned in May.
  •     By the last week of May the garden has warmed up enough to safely plant corn, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, melons, winter squash, summer squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, wax beans, beets, carrots and green peppers. Some years I will plant celery.
  •     Plant marigolds in the garden for pest control and annual flowers for cutting. Sunflowers are planted for the winter birds and any annual herbs are planted at this time too.


  •     First strawberries are ready to be picked by the middle of June
  •     Asparagus are still being harvested.
  •     Make yearly pantry list.
  •     Start canning and freezing.
  •     In June weeding and tilling are the main garden chores.
  •     Lettuce, radishes and spinach need to be gathered and sometimes peas are harvested by the end of June.
  •     Apples are sprayed every week.
  •     Vegetables are sprayed every other week
  •     Keep a close watch out for cutworms and other garden pests.
  •     June is the time for hatching out chicks and ducklings.
  •     Hay is first cut in June.
  •     June is often when deer become a problem in the garden and the garden needs to be fenced with electric fence.


  •     July brings cherries, blueberries, broccoli and cabbage.
  •     Weeding, spraying and pest control continues.
  •     Green beans are often ready to start picking by the middle to end of July.
  •     Dig the first sweet onions
  •     Pick summer squash.
  •     Cucumbers come ready and so do the very first tomatoes.
  •     Cattle are bred in July for April calves and hay is cut again.
  •     Harvest garlic.
  •     July can bring a bumper crop of blackberries.
  •     By the end of July canning season really begins to pick
  •     Many herbs are ready to be harvested during July
  •     Grapes are beginning to form on grape vines.


  •     If I intend to plant turnips, spinach or lettuce for the cool weather I sow them at the beginning of August.
  •     In August the annual flowers that were planted from seed are blooming.
  •     Sometimes it is dry here in August and certain flowers and vegetables will need extra water.
  •     Check for insects and plant diseases - late July and August brings 
  •     Continue to spray during August and take particular care with the grapes
  •     Sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, carrots, beets, spinach, lettuce, melons and new potatoes can all be harvested.
  •     By the end of August cucumbers are beginning to play out.
  •     Cabbage should be harvested before they begin to split.
  •     It’s important to keep the seed beds well watered - it's so hot in August it’s easy to kill cool weather vegetable seedlings before they have a chance to get started.


  •     Watermelons are ready.
  •     It's the end of most vegetables in the garden.
  •     Sometimes hay is cut for the third time.
  •     Tomatoes and peppers are still producing heavy and summer squash and green beans are mostly over unless I planted a second crop.
  •     Sometimes sweet corn is still harvested.
  •     Harvest and dry certain herbs like sage, rosemary, fennel and basil.
  •     First apples are picked in September
  •     By the end of the month some of the winter squash and pumpkins are ready.
  •     As the vegetables are finished, begin to clear out the weeds and old plants.
  •     Collect tomato, pepper, corn and other types of seed on dry, sunny days in September.
  •     Allow all the chickens into the garden to help me clean up.
  •     Move the ducks temporarily to the garden so their manure can be added to the soil.
  •     September is when meat chickens are slaughtered and market lambs are sold.
  •     By the end of September we usually have a killing frost. Kale and 
  •     Concord grapes are harvested after the first couple of frosts.


  • Sow winter wheat in early October.
  • October is time to remake the garden and to plant garlic.
  • It is also time to transplant and mulch strawberries.
  • October is the best time of the year to transplant trees or shrubs and is when tulips, daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs are planted.
  • It is also the time I collect flower seeds for next year's garden.
  • Apples are harvested in October and the orchard is cleaned and made ready for the coming winter.
  • Often the garden is tilled or re-plowed in October.
  • Sheep are bred in October for March lambs and kale and Brussels sprouts are first picked.


  •     In November field corn is harvested.
  •     Brussels sprouts are also harvested and any garden debris is cleaned up.
  •     Sometimes a single rose will bloom in November
  •     Often the weather turns cold before the garden can be put right before winter.


  •     Life begins to turn indoors again.
  •     Parsley, sage, chives and other herbs can still be harvested.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Stewie is Four!

It seems like yesterday that our grandson Stewart entered the world with a bang!  His birth was supposed to be one of those peaceful homebirths.  Everything was set up for his mom to deliver in the room right off the kitchen.  It was perfect - only steps from the bathroom.  

The midwife arrived in plenty of time, and Rachel breathed through the contractions.  She was amazing!  Everything was proceeding according to plan, when all of a sudden there was a poop.  Stewart had done his business while still inside his mother!

The peaceful homebirth turned into a mad dash to the hospital, in case the baby would have some respiratory distress when he was born.  It was stressful for everyone, but, thank God, Stewart made his entrance without too much ado.  

He was covered in poop from head to toe.  It was in his ears, his eyes, his nose...his hair, his armpits.  He was one poopy kid!  But we, the ones welcoming him into this world, loved him in a flash.  We, his parents and grandparents, thought he was beautiful.

He really was.  Underneath all that poop there was a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, baby boy.  Once we got him bathed and dressed, he was absolutely gorgeous.

And now, he's four.  He knows all about being a poopy baby when he was born, because we've all talked about it.  He just grins, and keeps playing with his cars.

Happy Birthday, Stewart!

Friday, March 13, 2009

History Review, Geography, Science, Flags

Today in Co-op school we started our journey around the world.  We "toured" Canada, USA and Mexico, reading about each of those countries - culture, geography, etc. - and pasting their flags into our Passports.  Each child 0ld enough to do so got a map of North America to colour and label. 

We reviewed "Truth and Triumph", recalling the stories of Polycarp, Blandina and Constantine.  We reviewed and committed to memorizing the Nicean creed.

Aunt Adeena read some poetry to us, and taught us about stamps.  Each child created his own stamp.

Aunt Rachel read from a Science book.  We were all grossed out to read that some viruses don't actually come "alive" until they attach themselves to a living cell in the body.  

Tiana and Elena got the children exercising outside, as they ran around and used their imaginations.  

'twas all good...another day is done.  Now, off I go to bed.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Passports - Geography Class

On Friday the children made passports.  Each child has his own passport made of construction paper and cardboard.  After the gluing was done, Aunt Heather stapled the booklets, then off the child went to see Aunt Adeena, for the passport photo.  Uncle Dan downloaded the pictures, then printed it off, while Granny filled out the vital statistics for each passport.  The children even had to wait in line, like a real passport office!

This is what Elena's looked like, opened to the first page.  I blurred out some of her information.  Notice the official looking imprint?  That was done with the children's great-grandfather's Architect imprint!  (Great-great grandfather to some of them!)

Next week, we plan to "tour" North America, and get stamps or stickers from Canada, USA, and Mexico.  The following week, we'll "tour" Central America, then we'll travel to South America.  Once we finish the Western Hemisphere, we'll be heading to Africa, then Europe, Asia and Australia.  We plan on learning some of the culture, the geographical features, the main exports, the flags, and some of the history of each country we "visit".  This is a whirlwind tour, designed to introduce the children to the countries and cultures of the entire world!

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

GRRRR - More evidence that I'm not perfect.

Bob and Dorothy came for a visit today.  Bob is our pastor, Dorothy's his wife.  They're a lovely couple, genuine, caring, soft-spoken, and kind.  We are blessed to know them, and privileged to have them as our brother and sister in Christ.

Bob led our family in a short Bible study on the book of James.  He started with James' view of himself, and James' view of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

James 1: 1 James, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ,

James called himself a "servant" - doulos, slave.  He sees himself as nothing but a servant, but he has the very best Master - God...the Lord, Jesus Christ.  He sees Jesus as the Lord, the Sovereign God; as the Messiah who came to save the lost, and as the anointed one.  

James was the half-brother of Jesus.  They had the same mother, but different fathers.  Jesus' Father was God.  James' father was Joseph.

Pastor Bob asked the children, "What would it have been like to grow up in a home where your older brother was perfect?"  They all agreed that in some ways it would have been neat, but the example would have been very convicting.

Bob thanked the children for their prayers, and told them how grateful he is that we pray for him when he is overseas.  He reminded the kids that they were privileged to have Christian parents who teach them the Word of God and live a Christian life before them. As I sat there listening to the study, I was convicted again that I am nowhere near perfect. During the entire study, I sat there thinking, "I am not even speaking to my husband."

A few weeks ago, I was busy doing crafts with the grandkids on Co-op day.  Rick was busy doing his books, and when he was done with the billing, he brought me the invoices and asked me to get them in the mail.  "Not now," I snapped.  Couldn't he see that I was in the middle of things?

He continued to press me, so I grabbed the stuff and trotted it over to his desk.  "I'll do it later," I said.  "Or you can take it to the corner yourself."

He refused.  I thought he was stubborn.  The mail had gone for the day anyway, so I figured I could do it later.

Two weeks later, he tossed the package at me.  He'd been looking on his desk for something else, and there it was, under some papers.  I completely forgot to mail it.

"I'm sorry," I said, but the apology fell on deaf ears.  It was such a little thing.  I could have stopped what I was doing, and taken a quick trip to the corner.  In so doing, I would have honoured my husband.

Yet, he could have done it himself.  Or he could have sent one of the other FOUR people in the family that have drivers' licenses.  I stewed about it.  

It's not that I didn't feel responsible.  I did.  But I also felt frustrated.  

So, here it is two more weeks later, and our cheque hasn't arrived.  Money is tight.  Tempers are flaring.  

When I think about it some more, it just shows me what a sinner I am.  I should have dropped what I was doing and mailed the invoice.  Rick should have gracefully done it for me, knowing I was busy.  He made it an issue of whether or not I put him first in my life.  I made it an issue of whether or not he has a servant's heart.

We were both wrong.

God, as usual, is good.  When we think we're getting spiritually minded, able to teach, growing in grace, He lets us mess up so we can see what is really going on inside.  "Out of the heart the mouth speaks".  My impatience is evil.  My frustration is sinful.  There is sediment in my beaker, and it's not at all pretty.

I think too highly of myself.  I need to take a lesson from James.  I am nothing but a servant.  

But I do have the very best Master - the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Lord, help me to remember that I am truly nothing but a servant.  You are a Good Master, and you design my days and order my steps to teach my Your ways.  When grandkids are clamouring and husband is demanding and dogs are barking and the phone is ringing, help me to stop and ask You what You want me to do.  Fill me with your Spirit.  Help me to have a heart to serve.  In Christ, I pray.  Amen.