Farmgirl Chocolate Chippers

Don’t worry.  You don’t have to be a farmer…or a girl…to enjoy these cookies.  Their delightfulness surpasses every demographic, which is a good thing…because this recipe makes a LOT.

2 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
2 c. brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
2 t. vanilla
5 c. regular rolled oats
4 c. flour
1 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
1 12-oz. pkg. chocolate chips
1 7-oz. chocolate candy bar, broken into several pieces
3 c. nuts, chopped (I especially like almonds.)

Cream together butter, sugar and brown sugar in large bowl.  Add eggs and vanilla.

Process half of oats in blender until powdery.  Process remaining half of oats until coarse, then add broken chocolate bar and process until oats are powdery and chocolate is chopped.

Add oats, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, then stir into butter mixture.

Mix in chocolate chips and nuts.

Form into golf ball-sized balls and bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.

Makes 10 or so dozen.

NOTE:  These cookies freeze very well.

Asparagus Beetles

I love asparagus.  It is truly one of my favorite foods.  When we planted 75 roots a few years ago, I thought all of my future asparagus desires would be fully realized.  I was wrong.  We planted 50 more roots this spring.

Last year, I noticed these teeny tiny little black specks on our asparagus, and it occurred to me that they were the eggs of some kind of insect.  Yep.  No problem.  We just washed them off before we ate the stalks.  No big deal.

It didn’t occur to me to scrape the eggs off of the skinny stalks that we allowed to go to seed.

Our asparagus season began with serious damage done by those blasted asparagus beetles!  It is amazing to me that three relatively small insects can completely destroy a healthy stalk in less than 24 hours…and still have time to lay a few dozen eggs.  Ugh!  The good news is, that unlike cabbage worms and tomato worms, asparagus beetles are not at all camouflage.  They are easy to see and easy to kill.

Twice a day, I walk up and down my rows of asparagus, knocking dozens of beetles off of the stalk and into a cup of soapy water or smashing them between my fingers before scraping the eggs off each stalk.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  This is the reality of pesticide-free gardening, folks, and this is why you pay more for it.  Growers need compensated for the carnage.  Gardening can be a nasty business.

Between the beetles and a late freeze before which I neglected to harvest the stalks that were up, we’re a little light on asparagus around here.  It’s a sorrowful state, truly.

The way I see it, I have a choice here.  I can be mad about it or I can learn my lesson and move on.  I mean, I am the one who allowed the eggs to reach maturity instead of getting rid of them when I first noticed their presence.  And, I am the one who was too busy to take the time to cut the asparagus in case of freezing temperatures.  I can’t always control the bad things that happen around here, but I certainly can control the way I respond.

This makes me think of sin.  The devil plants negative thoughts in my mind.  Do I let them stay and grow into something destructive?  Life throws a variety of obstacles in my path.  Do I deal with the momentary inconvenience of handling them immediately or do I give them the opportunity to bring permanent, lasting damage?

I have a choice.  It is almost always easier to do the work up front than to shove it to the back burner to deal with later.  Just like asparagus beetle eggs appear relatively harmless in the beginning, so does the first sign of sin.  And, the Bible tells us that when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.

Years ago, I heard a preacher say, “Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost far more than you’re willing to pay”.  Based on my life experiences, I can emphatically agree with that.  It will never get any easier to deal with the ugly in our lives than it is right now.

Roscoe

Roscoe Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Coltrane.

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If that opening line does not make sense to you, you are much younger than me.  Or, you possibly opted for better things to do with your time than watching episodes of “Dukes of Hazard”.

Regardless, this handsome bird has earned his name.  He’s a bit of a bumbler.  He’s making an appearance of doing what he was made to do, but the hens are a little too bossy for his mamby-pamby personality.  Roscoe’s mostly bluff.

I mooched him off of a neighbor with the hope of fulfilling the heart’s desire of a couple of broody hens.  Well, once we started leaving the hopefully-fertilized eggs under the nesting hens, they decided they had better things to do–like leave their eggs unattended for hours while they scratched around in the pasture.  Fortunately for them, Roscoe’s not so proficient at fertilizing.  There are only a couple of hens that have warmed to his advances.  The rest have warmed to taking him down a peg or two.

Poor, hen-pecked Roscoe.

The good news is that Roscoe is young and will probably learn his way around the coop.  More good news is that he has yet to fly at any people in an attempt to gouge out their eyes with his beak and spurs.  Plus, he’s pretty to look at.

We’ll keep him around for a while to see if he will step up to the plate and do what he was created to do.  If not, he’ll go really well with some dumplin’s this fall.  As I told him this morning, “Roscoe, we all have a choice.  We either choose to do what we’re created to do or we chicken out and take what appears to be the easy road.  Between you and me, my feathered friend, the easy road ain’t always what it’s cracked up to be.”

Family Night

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I am married to a Marriage and Family Therapist.  Believe me, this has its drawbacks.  For one thing, he is almost always right.  This can be…unsettling…if I ever wanted him to bow to my unreasonable demands.  Fortunately, I don’t make unreasonable demands.

The other problem comes in that he knows the futility of arguing, and sometimes I just want to indulge in a good argument!  Selfish, really, that he won’t oblige me in this.

Other than that, though, the Counselor’s knowledge and passion for healthy families mostly comes in handy.  For instance, we are currently living with three teenagers.  In spite of the natural trials borne out of this season of life, these young people are relatively well-adjusted, highly capable and mostly pleasant (probably because they’ve grown up with free counseling).  The perspective of a godly man who has worked with people in resolving personal crises–as well as worked through a few crises of his own–is beneficial.

Fairly early in our parenting, Counselor Dave and I determined that we would guard our time together as a family.  We would control our schedules and not allow our schedules to control us.  Over the years, this has required us to make a number of healthy, family-building decisions, some much easier to make than others.   One of the fun, easy decisions we made, following Dave’s lead, was to institute a Family Night.

Initially, we prompted each child, then ages two, four and seven, to suggest a few outdoor and a few indoor things that they really liked to do here at home.  Their suggestions included things like building with Lincoln Logs, watching a family-friendly movie, playing Blind Man’s Bluff and baking cookies.  Dave and I added our own suggestions, and we put all of the ideas into a jar to be drawn out for Sunday Family Nights.

Now that the kids are older, we rotate through the family, each person getting to choose weather-appropriate activities for their turn.  I usually prepare a fun, informal supper, like nachos, burgers or tacos and we quit whatever projects we’re working on by about 5:30 each Sunday evening.  It is a rare exception that we are on the computer or even take a phone call or return a text once Family Night begins.  If a Family Night falls on Mother’s Day or a birthday, then the honored person gets to choose the activity–or sometimes everyone else chooses an extra-special activity for the honored person.

I confess that not everyone is always thrilled with the chosen activity for the night (including myself).  There have been driveway face-plants from bike rides, split lips from Pickle, complaints about Croquet, unending games of Monopoly, cries of “Not fair!” when Daddy vetoes a movie option in favor of an outdoor activity when the weather is nice.  Our Family Nights have not created a perfect family; however, they have created opportunity for intentional time together to build relationships.  Families are the foundation of every society.  If our society is broken, we are reaping the consequences of our families being broken.

Whatever you choose to do this Mother’s Day weekend, I encourage you to make it a family-building activity.  Invest in the people you love.  Guard your time.  Put away your phone.  Plug in to one another.  You may not have family in the area, and you may not have children, but you still have people around you that can be blessed by what you have to offer.  Maybe you know of a broken family that could use a little building.  Maybe now is the time to reach out.

 

Frostbite

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We had a very heavy frost, possibly an actual freeze, a couple of days ago.  We lost both our sweet and sour cherry crops as well as most of our peaches, which is pretty sad for our family.  Fortunately, we had not yet planted much in our garden that would result in total crop failure.

Our potatoes sustained some frostbite, so I spent some time this morning cutting back the dead, damaged leaves so that the healthy parts of the plant can keep on growing.  We had mulched them pretty heavily the day before the forecasted frost, but we hadn’t completely covered everything.  Our broccoli plants and sugar snap pea seedlings still look a little rough, but I think they’ll rebound okay, too.

One of the things I respect about gardening is the reality that I am really not in control.  There are often certain things I can do to protect my various endeavors, but there is always an element that is completely beyond my grasp.  In my opinion, this is a healthy, humbling realization.  No matter what resources I have at my disposal and what energies I invest in all that I hope to accomplish, my ability to control every aspect is an illusion.  In order to have peace of mind, I’ve got to be okay with that.  I have to know when to keep working and when to let go.

Relationships have the same limitations.  We can only do what we can do.  Love.  Forgive.  Pray.  Repent.  Not every relationship is going to work perfectly.  Not every season is going to be an easy one.  At some point, we’ve got to be okay with that if we want to maintain peace of mind.  We can only do what we can do, and then we can ask God’s grace to cover over our mistakes.  That’s where the peace comes in.  We do what God calls us to do.  We work on the dead, damaged places in our own hearts, giving room for God to grow the healthy places into something living and productive.  We also have to allow for others to work on their own lives…or not.  We must relinquish the illusion of control.

I confess that this is a difficult concept for me–one that I struggle to learn time after time.  I can only do what I can do.  Love. Forgive. Pray. Repent.  Fortunately, if I shift my focus to these things, there is always more than enough to keep me well-occupied.

 

 

Deep Bed Mulching…Check!

Even though it ended with me completely drenched from the rain, I am thrilled to have deep-bed mulched almost all of my section of the back garden this afternoon.  It was a lot of work, because I waited too late in the season to do it (which meant having to mow or pull the weeds I’d allowed to get out of control).  And, to be honest, I was slightly tempted to mow the whole thing and just till it under.  BUT, it took me two years to convince Dave to leave a section of dirt for me to try my “hippie” approach for enriching the soil, reducing weeds and retaining moisture.  We’ve had remarkable success in this test area in the two years since I started it, but Farmer Dave is still reluctant to let go of time on the tractor for the rest of our garden space…and I completely understand.  I like driving our old John Deere 2010, too!
Today, I basically unrolled a huge round bale of hay that has been decaying at the edge of our woods for a number of years.  I then spread the rotting hay over the area that I had just mowed.  In some areas, I put down sections of newspapers under the hay, too, providing an additional barrier against the thistles that I’d allowed to establish.
In the past, I’ve mulched with grass clippings, soiled hay from our chicken coop and truckloads of dead leaves.  It’s a lot of work on the day we mulch it, but the energy it takes to maintain is almost nothing for the majority of the growing season.  Our plants stay moist in dry weather and don’t become overrun with weeds when the rains hang on.
For most of the rest of our gardens, I mulch in between rows after planting as opposed to covering the entire space each year.  This is still greatly beneficial, but driving that heavy tractor over it at the beginning and end of every season seems to undo some of the weed barrier and soil aeration that the deep bed mulching allows.
I ran out of hay before I could totally finish, but I know that, with all of the rain we’ve had, there will be plenty of grass clippings this week to fill in the gap.  It really feels good to have such a big job done!

Time to Plant

Ahhhh…planting season already.

Sometimes, in my brain, it sounds more like, “Awww…planting season…already”.

Other times, it resembles more of an, “Aaaaaaack!  Planting season!!  Already!”

Regardless of my current personal feelings on the situation, it is, indeed, time to plant in the State of Indiana.

Sigh.

We began putting in cool-weather crops a couple of weeks ago.  We followed up with a second planting of many of them today–beets, sugar snaps, radishes, leafy greens.  We also planted candy onions, kale, turnips, parsnips and kohlrabi.  A rainbow of seed potatoes were put in a week ago, and our rhubarb is coming up nicely.  The broccoli plants my husband started will be ready for the dirt in a week or so.  We should be able to sample our first little harvest of this season’s asparagus tonight.

I struggle to comprehend that it is once again time to plant the produce that it seems like I just finished putting up for winter.  I seem to have lost an entire month…or two.

Lately, I am increasingly aware of how quickly each day passes.  Weeks that used to seem to meander along are now gone in what seems like moments.  I am trying to hold on to the routine, the mundane, the essence of what our life here at home has always seemed to be while still embracing the changes that teenage children bring.

I’ll be honest:  I miss my little ones.  I miss their simplicity and wonder and snuggles.  I miss bedtime stories and tickle times and three meals together each and every day.  I don’t resent the changes that have come with having older children, and I do not wish things were different, but I genuinely miss those days of sticky fingers and blowing bubbles and three sweet kids being scrubbed in the tub.

I am so thankful that I was able to spend my days at home with them.  I wouldn’t change that for the world.  However, if I could do it all over again, I would choose to be even more present in the moment.  I would choose even more long, lazy walks, even more times together bundled up in the snow, more times looking into their eyes and telling them who God has created them to be.  I’d let go of more of the lesser things and hold more tightly to the greater.  I’d play more.  Cherish more.  Ask more.  Pretend more.

Listen more.

I’d commit to less outside of their world and do more in it.

I have never felt like I sacrificed myself when I chose to stay home with my kids.  Instead, I feel like I have been impacted in such a life-altering, faith-building, comfort-zone-stretching way that I am better for my investment in their lives.  They have softened me and challenged me and clarified for me in a way nothing else ever could.  I am seeing glimpses of the harvest in my children, and I am pleased and humbled.  They each shine in their own beautiful way even as they continue to learn and grow and navigate this garden of life.

I am so thankful that I took the time to sow when the soil was ready.  Lord, help me to tend to their fertile hearts with the fruits of Your Spirit.