Friday, June 16, 2017

George Washington National Forest Shooting Range Brandywine, WVA

You should be able to access my Facebook Album with photos and information here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Camp Run Campground, WVA

We scouted this area to see if it was something we wanted to do with our children. You should be able to access my Facebook Album which has pictures and informaiton here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Happy Birthday Clint!

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This is an old smoker that I painted to look like R2D2 with our children's help.
Clint loved it! He put it in his office at work.

To my love, Clint, on his birthday! I want to sit on that mountain and listen to the sweet whippoorwill sing us "goodnight" again.
My love is deeper than the holler, stronger than the rivers
Higher than the pine trees growin' tall upon the hill
My love is purer than the snowflakes that fall in late December
And honest as a robin on a springtime window sill
And longer than the song of the whippoorwill

Happy Birthday to my one and only forever date! Thank you for all you do for the glory of the Lord and the good of our family! CONGRATULATIONS also on finishing your degree while married, raising seven children, working two jobs, maintaining our home and cars, ministering to others, and much more. I know it was not easy balancing so very much, but you stuck with it and finished it. I am so thankful God gave us to each other. Your friends know you as "C-Dawg" and "Mr. Stud," but I know you as the very best part of me. I will always love you, Clint!!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Smoker Turned into R2D2

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Clint LOVES his birthday present which we gave him a little early. This was a smoker the children and I painted to look like R2D2. It has motion activated droid sounds. Our initials are hidden in the paint. Caleb helped me figure out how to lay it out and put the legs on it. Amanda, Joshua, Bethany, Emily, and Hannah helped me paint it. Brandon bought the motion activated speaker. 

We had the smoker just sitting around and the paint was leftover from other stuff. Brandon didn't have time to paint, so he bought the motion activated sound. Whatever he paid for that is all we have in it. Clint's looking to see how to make it remote controlled. He wants it to move!

I thought he'd want to put it outside on the forest path like we did the minion Bethany and I painted. When I mentioned it, he put his arm around it and said, "You can't put R2 outside, Wendy."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Motts for Tots Organic Apple Juice #freesample

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Our family is often given free samples and products to try from vendors. We try several new products a week. 

Recently, we were given a generous free sample of Motts for Tots Apple Juice. It was more than enough for everyone in our family of nine to have a glass with some left to share. Mott's for Tots Organic Apple Juice is made with organic apples and starts with 100% juice. Then they add purified water to cut the sugar by 40%. Then essential vitamins are added. This results in a good, clean beverage that tastes great but contains much less sugar. 

I thought our youngest children, Emily and Hannah, would enjoy it the most. While they did love it, Joshua, our 17 year old, is absolutely crazy about it. Since cutting sugar consumption is a good thing for braces, Joshua's orthodontist is happy with Joshua choosing Motts for Tots as his new apple juice too. #freesample

Thursday, May 25, 2017

4x4 Jeep Trail off of Coal Road/ Cold Spring Bald Mountain Trail (FR 162)

The Cold Spring Bald Mountain Trail (FR 162) also known as the Coal Road 4x4 Jeep Trail has access points from the Blue Ridge Parkway Bald Mountain Overlook MP 22.1 and Coal Road. The Blue Ridge Parkway is the top of the trail, and Coal Road is the bottom. 

Here's a link to the trail on Google Maps to help you find it.

I have a lot of young drivers new to 4WDing asking me about this road. Please be patient as I add info for them. My goal is to share something we enjoy and also keep the newbies as safe as possible. 

This trail can be done in a stock Jeep. If you have that clearance and 4WD, you should not have a problem. We did it in a 1999 4WD Suburban which we also use on our farm. 

Conditions change from day to day, year to year. Keep that in mind. The trail is closed in the winter months. The trail is rocky with some muddy and some sandy areas. We have been when the boulders that make up parts of the width of the road were slick with algae. 

When you talk about difficulty, that seems subjective based on experience. We did not find this trail difficult or even moderate. Our trip was after a rain, and there was one mud puddle about as long as our suburban. It was deep enough to cause a few seconds of concern, but Clint got us through it. 

You do get jostled around because it is rocky and uneven. You do need to know about off camber turns, clearance, center of gravity, how 4WD traction works, differentials, etc. 

We took the main trail and did not have any major issues with clearance or with the width of the road. 

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The license plate is a victim of a forest 4WD adventure and 
is on the dashboard in the window.

This link should take you to my album of pictures of the trail. We did not take the alternate trails. We also did not get to stop at the clearing with Green Pond on this trip. We were trying to get through before a thunderstorm and get back to camp before dark. So, I was not able to get pictures of those places. 

There are pit vipers when the weather is warm. Be aware of that if you decide to go behind bushes to use nature as a restroom. I do not like snakes, spiders, or ticks. We simply waited until we had the trail to ourselves and took turns in a clearing right next to the trail with the Suburban blocking the view, just in case. You can hear the trucks coming most of the time.

If you do not stop and stick to the main trail, you can get through the trail in under two and a half hours. We stopped briefly for overlooks, pictures, and to use the restroom. We got through it in just under three. We had been told the minimum time to get through it was six hours. They may have taken alternate trails and/or longer breaks. You need to go as slow as possible and as fast as necessary. Off-roading is hard on a vehicle.

I recommend going up the trail for the first visit for inexperienced drivers. There are a series of switchbacks and some off camber turns. 

The standard recommendation is to go with another person or a group. This is helpful if you break down or get stuck. If you can't go with someone else, go earlier in the day. That ensures someone will come across you before nightfall.

There is really only one place you could benefit from having a spotter to get over a particular set of boulders, but there is an easy drive around for this spot. 

Take vehicle repair tools, a spare tire, snacks, water, and anything else you might pack for a day trip. On this trip, we saw lots of fathers with children, but no other women driving or riding in 4x4s besides me and my daughter. There are local firemen who frequent the trail in their own personal vehicles. They've been on the trail every time we've gone. We've found them to be a jovial, friendly, and helpful bunch.

There are loose rocks, stream fed puddles, hikers, bikers, and other vehicles. There may be tent campers in some of the camping areas.

There are blind curves, and the trail is fairly narrow in spots. You might have to back up a ways to find a place to make room for someone to pass. You might have to patiently crawl along as hikers make their way to a place wide enough you can pass them. We've even seen a couple walking their hyper dogs. Brush is thick and leaves light "pin-striping," but it buffs out. I've been told the alternate trails can leave permanent pin-striping from the rocks.

It CAN be dangerous. We have seen an accident that had the road shut down for a few hours. However, I feel like we are in more danger in heavy 70 mph traffic on the interstate than on this trail. 

I hope this helps someone enjoy the trail! Have fun, and please share a picture of your experience!

When we go again, I hope to have more pictures to add to the album.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Coal Road Bald Mountain 4x4 Jeep Trail

We love traveling in this area and get a lot of questions from the previous posts and images we've shared on social media.  We've also made some pretty good adventure loving friends!

Before we ever tried, we searched the internet quite a while but never found anyone who had even tried this trail in a Suburban. We knew a stock Jeep could do it, so we figured our suburban could too. 

We did it in our '99 Suburban with no issues. I should note here that our driver, my husband, has quite a bit of 4WD experience. That matters.

Our trip was spur of the moment, so we did not go in a group. I can see where a group would be helpful in case of a breakdown. Cell coverage for me was spotty. If you must go alone, do it earlier in the day. That way if you have an issue, someone should come along and be able to offer help. Expect other drivers, mountain bikers, and hikers on this trail. There are spots to camp along the trail. Look for rock campfire rings.

If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing adventure, you probably should go to an off road beach. This road is a lot of rugged fun in a beautiful environment. If you've never driven up a rocky mountain trail before, it can be quite a thrill.

I will be making a post with some tips soon. For now, those interested in driving the trail can view images of parts of the road in my Facebook album

Coal Road Bald Mountain 4x4 Jeep Trail 4WD 4 wheel four wheel off road Shenandoah Blue Ridge Sherando Bald Mountain

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Prayers for Family Friend Needed

Our long time friend, Angie, has Ehlers Danos. She is use to a certain pain level, but she has been hit with a new problem that is taking her to her limit. Angie is hospitalized, but the doctors can't get her pain under control. Will you please pray for her with us? Thank you so much!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Motherhood Can Sometimes Feel Like This Scene

Sometimes I've felt like enacting this scene.
"Help me help you!"

Friday, May 19, 2017

Mindlessly Mothering

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Hannah and Emily came running in the house and breathlessly announced that Hannah had seen a "baby snake" at their bike ramp.

"How long was it?"

She spreads her fingers about 4 inches. Kind of small for a snake, but children aren't always the best judge of measurements. 

"What color was it?"

"Brown with black markings" was her reply.

In my state, that could possibly mean a copperhead or water moccasin, but I've never seen one at our place. These are not reptiles I want near where my children play. However, I've learned to be patient and gather as many facts as I can before responding in my decades of parenting.

"Will you please draw me a picture?"

Hannah drew the picture above, and I knew right away it was a Little Brown Skink which is a harmless creature. They can move so quickly; you can miss seeing their tiny legs and mistake them for a baby snake. 

Skinks are very beneficial to humans. They eat the bugs that destroy our crops and pests that invade our homes. I used this opportunity to teach my youngest two about the role of the skink and the God given responsibility of having dominion and stewardship over the earth. 

Now, I am not fond of slithery things, and I certainly do not not want them touching me. If they surprise me, I'll scream so loud you will hear it from where you sit. I'd be quite happy if I never came across another slithery thing. However, I was not given this job as a mother to teach my children about my preferences or aversions. I am to teach them God's unadulterated truth. So, I can't mindlessly mother. Mothering requires thoughtfulness and careful consideration of what God's Word says.

The truth is that we have been given dominion and stewardship over the earth and the creatures on it. We need to take the job as seriously as we do the other jobs He has given us like parenting, ministry, marriage, career, etc. 

If we react with fear or revulsion to every little creature we see, it can lead us to foolishly destroying the gifts God has given us in creation. Then, we lose the benefits God has in place. 

God says His thoughts and ways are much higher than mine, so I believe the benefits of letting creatures, like the Little Brown Skink, alone extend much further than I can imagine. 

I also believe God will bless us for slowing down in the course of our day to consider Him as we go along and also for choosing kindness over cruelty. 

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Jungle in the Explorer

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This is how you ride when you stuff two large peach trees in a Ford Explorer that already has a large tool box in the back. Amanda took me shopping and bought me the trees for Mother's Day. Brandon bought me two large apple trees and a peach tree. I ask for fruit trees for my Mother's Day every year with the hope the trees will produce fruit that will bless my children's future families. 

My grandmother grew a large garden and always sent home food, a hug, and a request to visit again with anyone who visited. I look back and see how she had a wonderful, practical ministry to others right in her own home. She started with her own family and worked her way to be a blessing to both friends and strangers. This is what I hope to do from the little spot of earth God has bestowed to us.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to everyone with a loving mother's heart no matter if you have many children or none. This includes those who conceived and lost, those whose child grew and left for Heaven, teachers and social workers who see the hurting child and respond, and fathers who step up to fill both roles. I hope you know your love and concern matters in a child's life, and you are worth your weight in gold!

Friday, May 12, 2017


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This opportunistic female cardinal got into Caleb's quail pen which is a large, walk in hoop house covered in one inch chicken wire. She couldn't remember how to get back out. She was eating the quail food when he saw her! Caleb, who also takes advantage of opportunities, brought her inside for a quick minute so everyone could enjoy the chance to see our state bird up close. Because being afraid isn't fun and our rule is that if we aren't all having fun, it isn't fun, we let her go quickly.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Our Other Nine

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Per our tradition, we gathered as a family on May 7th and remembered our other nine family members. We are thankful the Lord made them known to us even for a short time. We wait patiently with joyful anticipation of the day we will be together.

Texts from our neighbors telling us how much they enjoyed seeing the sky lanterns was a welcomed extra blessing.

I was asked if I was concerned about them being a fire hazard. Here's my reply:

"No. We researched them and chose these for that reason. The ones we buy cost more than others, but they are worth it. These are made in such a way to not start fires. They rise rapidly, go very high up into the sky, have a very limited burn time, and burn completely out while in the air before the biodegradable parts fall harmlessly back to earth. We've been using them for years with no issues. We watch every one until it is finished. They go completely out while they are still very high in the air every single time." 

We also live near a river and the wind takes them to open water. If you are still concerned about fires, you can use them after a rain. 

The ones we purchase are completely biodegradable. 

There were manufacturers using wire for the frames which fell into fields causing concerns for cattle farmers. If those are still being made, I'd avoid them.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Congratulations, Amanda!

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Amanda worked very hard in the job she found about six months ago. She impressed her bosses and earned herself a new position with better pay and benefits! She did this while taking college classes and maintaining an A average, working 12 hour long night shifts, and working overtime when she could pick it up. She is saving for a house which she hopes she can buy within the next year or two. Way to go, Amanda!!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Take It Slow

Clint helped a young man, Alex, whose car broke down in our driveway after he drove through water. Alex told Clint he thought the best way to get through water was to drive as fast as he could. Clint was patient and gentle as he encouraged him to go slow through water that can't be avoided to lessen the risk of damage. It was apparent as they diagnosed the problem that the young man didn't have a good working knowledge of his automobile, but he really listened and asked questions when Clint explained things to him.

After Clint talked with him for a while, he learned this young man did not have a father or a mother growing up. Alex aged out of the foster care system. His uncle works him as a waterman for $40 cash a day a few days a week. A day starts very early and can go 8-12 hours. That is very low pay for a very hard and often dangerous job.

Alex bought his car for $200 and has put $300 in it. We could tell he was worried about what it would cost to fix his car. Unlike most young adults, he has no cell phone. He sleeps at his uncle's house so he can get up early and work, but he lives with his aunt.

He was driving alone on a learner's permit because he had no family who was willing to ride with him. He had already been pulled once, but the officer was understanding to the situation and let him go with a warning. Clint drove him to his aunt's so he could go get his driver's license on his day off. He came back later and fixed his car.

The young man was hesitant and seemed to have a confidence problem, but he was polite and has a desire to learn. When Clint let him know his driving method was erroneous, he didn't let his pride get in the way of taking in new information. He clearly isn't afraid of hard work. Instead of making excuses or waiting on a hand out, he is trying to get himself started in life despite the many obstacles in his path. That's a lot of good character qualities that emerged in a few minutes of talking. I am glad we had the opportunity to meet him and hope we see him again.

People who do things that seem foolish might not have had the same opportunity to learn as you did. Slow down and look for the good in people. Try to be patient and gentle with everyone you meet to avoid causing more damage (hurt) in their lives. Some roads in life are harder than others.

If you will please pray for Alex.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I won't let it erase the good memories...

For the first time ever, I am thankful my paternal grandparents are with the Lord so they were spared the pain.
I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it. The quiet time away helped settle my heart a bit.
I lost my cousin Jerry to suicide eight days ago. He was the oldest of the local cousins. When we were children, I thought he could do anything and everything.
When he got his driver's license, he took me and another cousin out driving. I thought he was so cool! I remember him patiently teaching me to throw a crab line at my grandparent's pier. He took me to a little spot he knew would fill his trap with minnows he could use to catch bigger fish. He showed me how to find the path through my grandfather's thick bamboo patch to the well house. To younger me, it was as exciting as going through the wardrobe into Narnia! He and I played horseshoes together at my grandparents. I'm pretty sure he let me win. After Clint and I were married, we spent some time with Jerry in a lake cabin he was renting at the time and created many fun memories. I still use a recipe he gave me and will make sure that I tell my children today who it came from.
Like most of the men in my paternal family, Jerry could do anything with wood from building houses to making furniture. He could fish, hunt, and trap with the best of them and then shared whatever he had. I can't remember him and I ever having a harsh word between us. He was so much fun to be around! I can still see him smiling, cutting up, and laughing. He was a compassionate, gentle, down to earth, give you the shirt off his back country boy.
I've lost so many friends and family to suicide. I can remember crying my heart out for days the first time it happened when I was a teenager. I burst into tears 20 years later when visiting his grave. The sharpness of it so many years later took me by surprise. I still miss him! The pain suicide leaves just sticks around. It's not how we should leave one another. I use to get angry about it, but I soon learned to look past the act to see their pain and forgive them.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to someone, and if they aren't helpful, reach out again to someone else. Keep moving until you get the help you need. The first few people you reach out to might be in the midst of something of their own and not see your need because their own pain. Help IS out there! I have friends who have been there and found their way through with various treatments. I am proud of them!
To my family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances: If you ever need a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a hug, a swift kick in the pants, a friend, a sister, an aunt, a mama...I am here. Don't make a permanent choice that will end forever the chance of your circumstances changing. You could be missing out on something better that was out of your sight only because it was right around the next corner. Let the pages of your life keep turning, and see where you end up. My heart is very burdened for my aunt, uncle, an cousins. Please pray for them.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Prayer Request

My cousin, Jerry, took his own life. I am heartbroken. Please be in prayer for his parents, siblings, and niece and nephew. I love them all very much and can not imagine the pain they are going through. 

Jerry L. Bailey

Western Tidewater - Jerry Lee Bailey, 52, passed away unexpectedly Tuesday, April 18, 2017. He was a native and lifelong resident of Isle of Wight, a beloved son of D. Marie Talton and Rollis I. Bailey, Jr. He is also survived by a sister, Susan Sauder, and fiancé, Will Greer; a brother, Ronnie Bailey; niece, Bridgette and nephew, Bailey.

Jerry was a passionate carpenter and woodworker and was able to help and care for others with his crafts and hands. He was a caregiver, great cook, gardener, and avid hunter and fisherman.

In addition to his immediate family, Jerry was blessed and was a blessing to O.A and Hazel Spady, Jimmy Turner, Jim and Elizabeth Turner, Shirley Hooker, Bruce Wayne Spady, Jimmy Holland, Steven and Rhonda Culpepper, and two canine pals, Jackson and Buttons.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bee Progress First Week

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When Brandon got his bees, he did not have a rubber band large enough to attach the queen's box to the frame. So, he removed a frame and sat her box in the hive. He was told by his local bee mentor not to open the roof for a week while the bees set up their home. Since he never put the frame back, he has comb growing between the frames and attached to the roof. This is not a big deal.

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New to beekeeping, we were impressed with their progress in just 6 days.
Brandon has Italian bees supplied by the local bee group. They are known for being very docile.

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Brandon didn't take any chances. I watched their behavior as I walked to the hive, and they remained calm, so I was able to get a really good look.

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The drops are sugar water Brandon sprayed on them. 
It keeps them busy while he works and gives them a boost of energy.

Psalm 16:24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Brandon's Bees

Clicking the pictures will make them larger for easier reading.

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This is about 5 pounds of honey bees.

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There was a board stapled on top of this for shipping.

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I always thought the queen traveled alone, but she is accompanied in her little box by a few others.

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Everything is pretty easy going unless you mush a bee. 
If a bee is harmed, it releases pheromones that tell the others to attack and sting. Brandon was careful, and we had no issues. The bees were very calm and several landed on us peacefully to rest. If we didn't want them on us, we gently brushed them off. Most of us liked having them on us. The entire installation was a very pleasant experience!

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The buzzing noise they make is very soothing.
The queen is in the box at the bottom of the picture above.

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The queen is in the box which is covered in bees as they work to get her out. These are at Brandon's house, but we hope to add hives to our farm next year.

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Friday, April 07, 2017

Little Nest

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 I found this tiny nest on the ground under one of our pine trees.
It is made from hog hair, horse hair, grasses, and a few strands of woven plastic feed bags. The penny is for size comparison.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Where Food Comes From

Recently, I was buying ever-bearing strawberries from a department store. Green berries of all sizes were hanging off the plants. The cashier asked me what they were. I was surprised by the question. She was so delighted by those little green berries! She had never seen strawberries growing before! I was reminded how many people have never had the opportunity to see where their food originates. Her genuine enthusiasm made me smile.This isn't stupidity as some people like to call it. It's a lack of knowledge due to lack of opportunity. I am very thankful for my rural upbringing and all of the simple things I often take for granted. 

Don't be puffed up by your knowledge. Understand we have not all had the same opportunities in life. Be thankful for your experiences, and continue learning! 

Monday, April 03, 2017

How We Use Our Brush for Natural Fencing

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natural fence to keep animals in

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more for the pile

A lot of livestock owners use a double fencing system for their animals, but it is cost prohibitive for small family farms. We have been piling our brush right along our property line for years. This creates a dense natural barrier that serves to keep our livestock from leaving our place. 

We have added to it, in a manner where it is not visible from either side, the old rolled wire fencing and other materials we have that can be re-purposed with the same goal in mind. I really like this because the old fencing we paid for is an investment that is still working for us along our brush pile fenced perimeter. That investment is still being returned to us many times over.

When our livestock has escaped, this has worked very well to keep them out of the farmer's field which is directly behind us. So far, we have never had a hog, goat, horse, etc go through or over it. What happens most of the time is the animal follows the path which leads them to the house where we usually see through a window that someone is out.

It's not completely around our property, but we are continually adding to it as we go.

This is our way of using what is naturally around and on hand to accomplish the same goal of a double fence system. This was a better choice for us than burning it off or carting it to the landfill. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Front Yard Visitors

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This pair of Canada geese came to visit in our front yard for a few hours. They made themselves at home and did not seem bothered at all by our presence. Our geese never came to the front yard, so I do not know how they would have reacted to the uninvited guests. Our visitors came very close to where we were sitting and stayed for a few hours. Bethany took these pictures after I went back inside to get some work done.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cutting Up on Bikes

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Knowing the girls would laugh, Brandon took Hannah's Hello Kitty bike. Then, Caleb took Emily's. Em yelled while laughing, "Hey, you can't ride that. Mom, look at them!" To Hannah she said, "Ugh, we have brothers!" It's good fun as long as everyone is enjoying it..and we all were!

Monday, March 27, 2017

She got it out!

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homemade learning tool

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Time to pull the engine out! 
After working that morning, Dad was on hand to help guide the engine out.

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She's so happy it's out!

I've noticed it's the people doing nothing constructive that are usually the ones criticizing the people who are movers and shakers. Yes, Amanda has had some criticism. She was told by a young man that she should be learning to "knit and stuff" in her time off. She told him she knows how to crochet and sew, but those things will not get her the car she wanted at a bargain price. Amanda laughed at him because he spends his free time playing video games and can't do simple things on his own car.

There is nothing in God's Word that says a woman can not learn skills. Just because something isn't stereotypical in our culture does not mean it is immoral. This skill will benefit her and her family for the rest of her life. She is adding to what she already knows. She has already fixed vehicles for others and did not charge them for her time. She will be able to minister to more people because of her current project. 

It is honorable, pure, and admirable that she wanted something, set a goal for it, and is working very hard to obtain it for herself rather than sitting around waiting for someone else to provide it or for it to magically fall out of the sky. She is not neglecting anyone or anything by doing this. She is being industrious while the guy at work is wasting his time on something that will never tangibly benefit his life. 

Proverbs 12:24 The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Civilization Today

Civilization today reminds me of an ape with a blowtorch playing in a room full of dynamite. It looks like the monkeys are about to operate the zoo, and the inmates are taking over the asylum. --Vance Havner

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Amanda's Attitude of Learning

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  Amanda set her eyes on a goal, and she's working to get there. That engine will be pulled out later today. She's come a long way from cosmetology school! "If I fail, I'll still learn, and what I learn will be worth more than my small cash investment. If I succeed, I'll have a great car for very little cash and some hard work. Either way, I am going to learn things I can use the rest of my life, so no matter what happens I can't lose."

Joshua, Caleb, and Bethany are taking turns working with her so they can learn too.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Father, Return Elizabeth Thomas to Her Family

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While they were last seen in TN and thought to be in Alabama, a family member (Danielle Thomas) told me yesterday (3/23/2017) that keeping an eye out and looking in the woods of other places, including my state of Virginia, is worth doing.

"the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says efforts to locate them remain unsuccessful as they could be anywhere." source

"She told my younger sister that if she wasn't home by 6:00 to call the police. Call for help I think was her exact words," James Thomas said." source

" The suspect is believed to be armed with two handguns and driving the listed vehicle." source

I have a particular interest in wanting to see this 50 year old predator apprehended, and this young woman returned home. Let's share the missing persons information, keep our eyes out, and keep the fervent prayers going.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Here's Why...

Our entire family learned a lot through this experience.

A couple of years ago, Brandon left work early in his casual office clothing and took his car in to a local mechanic to have an estimate on getting the work done for him. The mechanic did not know Brandon already had diagnosed the problem, knew the cost of the part, and had the knowledge and skill to do the work himself. Between college and work, Brandon simply did not have the time to perform the repair, so he was willing to pay to have it done.

The mechanic came back with an entire list of things that were "wrong" including some parts that had been replaced a month earlier. That told Brandon the man had not even looked hard at his car since the new parts were easy to distinguish. Needless to say, the estimate was very high and included a lot of work that did not need to be done.

Brandon came home and relayed the experience. Clint, in his stained work clothes, took the car to the same mechanic shortly after Brandon had. It was the same car, same list of symptoms, same mechanic. This time, there was only one part that needed to be replaced, and the estimate was very reasonable. 

Amanda was outraged at the difference and wondered aloud how much more they would have tried to deceive her because of her gender. 

Now you know the reason behind her motivation to learn how to repair her own cars. So, she is giving up her free time and suffering through bad weather and failures to teach herself the skill of auto repair. "I have to drive a car my whole life. I need to know how to care for it."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Three of the Sisters

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Em's bike chain kept falling off.
Amanda was tracking down a minor issue with her truck, so Emily and Hannah asked her for help with the chain.

While she is working nights (including overtime) and flying through college courses, Amanda is also teaching herself all she can about how to repair cars. She, and all of our other children, started learning with Clint as a two year old who would crawl under the cars and hold tools for him. As she grew, he taught more and built upon it every year. Through trial and error, Amanda has really expanded upon that knowledge in the last six months. She's worked outside in freezing temperature and very cold rains. She is eager to being her engine work on her next ride this weekend. Clint did not have a father around. Clint taught himself with a book. I was there for most of that learning, and it did not come quick or easy. It did come by determination, much time, and consistent effort.

If you teach yourself skills, you will never regret it. If you don't because you are afraid of failure, you have already failed. If you are too lazy to learn new skills, don't complain about how you can't move forward in life or how much it costs to pay to have something done for you. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

This and That

Amanda bought a fairly nice vehicle for next to nothing. The catch is that it needs timing guards. That means the engine has to be pulled out. Our girl is very mechanically inclined, so we are willing to support her in this. 

Clint and I decided to foot the bill for a gantry since we can use it for other things. To accomplish all of the criteria that had to be met for our needs, we decided to install it ... in the front yard. Neither Clint nor I were happy about that, but it is what it is. I was a bit happier when I realized I can hang a bench swing from it when it is not in use for pulling engines. I'll see if Caleb will build me one like my grandfather's.

We are also tearing out and redoing a bathroom, working on splitting next year's firewood pile, adding fence so our American Guinea Hogs can continue to eat healthy pasture, working on kitchen cabinet repairs, incubating chicks that will grow all spring/summer and go to freezer camp in the early winter, nurturing seedlings that were started indoors, making jigs for woodworking tools, pressure canning over 200 lbs of chicken, hanging solar powered lights (given to me for free) all over the place, etc. It's busy. It's very, very busy, but rather than being scattered here and there, we are busy at home helping each other accomplish goals which serves to bond us closer to one another. 

Emily's and Hannah's curriculum jumped from $299 to $699. Clint and I decided we would avoid the robbery, so I am making my own curriculum for them this year. It is very time consuming, but also rewarding since I can tailor it more towards their interests. 

Clint and I are planning some time away soon. We haven't decided if it's going to be at an ocean front house or a mountain stream side retreat, but it will be welcomed either way.

I was going to write a bit more, but I was just called away. So, I'm off to more mothering and managing our happy home and busy farmette. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Wendy's Tips for Growing Your Own Food to Cut Grocery Costs

A sweet friend asked for tips for beginners who want to grow a garden to cut grocery costs. Here is what I shared with her.

Clint and I are still learning too. There was a generation gap in passing down learning about growing and preserving food on both sides. As a young wife 22+ years ago, I checked out from the library and purchased books to teach myself. Thankfully, there is much more on the internet now. One of my favorite books from then is Carla Emery's The Encyclopedia of Country Living which has been updated. It looks like a phone book and covers just about everything you can imagine about country life.

A lot of my self taught learning was slowed down by lengthy spells of bed rest caused by each pregnancy and then having little ones to care for, but I kept plodding along in that shuffle most of us do..two steps forward and one step back. 

What to plant and what to avoid is dependent upon your immediate area. Know your growing conditions. I have low acid clay soil with a high water table that is rich in minerals due to flooding from our river. Our weather is affected by our river and the ocean. I've been working on building up our soil in certain areas for 22 years. If Clint brings me home a load of mulch or a bag of leaves, grass clippings, or pine cones from a curb, I'm a happy girl! 

What grows well in the wild where you are? Here it is asparagus, blackberries, persimmons, etc. You know you can't lose with plants that already grow wild where you are. I am hoping to get outdoors and dig up some of our wild blackberries and plant them along fence lines and chicken pens this year. 

High yield garden producers like beans, peas, tomatoes, squash, collards, lettuces, etc make good choices. 

Perennials like berry bushes, grapevines, strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, garlic, horseradish, many herbs, fruit trees and such allow you to plant once and harvest for many years. I consider these good investments.

I also like the permaculture idea of "food forests." I would like to tour a place that has these established as I am still trying to get a fix on what this looks like and how it is done.

Speaking of tours, did you know you can do a free self guided tour (a lot of walking) Joel Salatin's farm which is just outside of Waynesboro, VA? There are tons of ideas to be gathered from here, and his family is friendly and polite. I really enjoyed our short time there and hope to go back soon. 

Look at what is naturally (wild) on your land that can be used for your needs that you are ignoring. I harvest my own elderberry, plantain, dandelion, chickweed, mint (planted by someone who lived here eons ago), bayberry (aka wax myrtle), persimmons, pine needles (animal bedding/potpourri), clover and grasses (feed for animals), etc. We've been conditioned to run to the store for everything rather than use the resources that are all around us. We cut the trees down as needed for firewood and use the discarded branches as a natural fence, privacy, boundary line in areas. We make use of things that are here that we know will work for our needs. I've lived here for 20 years and am always finding something new like a female (fruiting) persimmon tree that was hiding in a ton of brush. (I KNEW that deer was going into that thorny thicket for a good reason!!) 

What plants/vines/bushes do your neighbors have that you can trade for? You can cut costs and expand what you grow quickly this way. 

You'll notice one year, you'll have one crop coming out of your ears, but something else might not be doing that well. Preserve what you can during bumper crop years, because the next year, it will likely be a different crop that produces abundantly. 

As Clint and I approach our 50's, we are looking for ways to make it easier on ourselves in the future, so we are adding raised beds, containers, and are experimenting with gutter* gardening. While on vacation, I saw an elderly Asian man who had a large container garden all raised on boards and saw horses to his chest height. He had produce on the vines, so it was working for him. We've often talked about trying that. We are still shufflin' onward! I'm heading outside now to see what I can get up to before the cold weather comes before I head to the store to stock up on some "loss leader" sale items.

*Avoid the strawberry gutter planting idea you see online. The one you see that has the big pretty berries trailing down has an irrigation system run through it. I've heard of too many who tried it without the irrigation hoses. The berries die in the summer heat.

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Few Ways I Save Money on Groceries

Here are some of my favorite ways to save on groceries. Most of them were passed down to me from older ladies with many children. Food costs are one of the largest costs most of us have, but they can be controlled. I feed my family very well, but I do not spend a lot on our groceries. All of those weekends you see me taking away with my husband...are paid for with our grocery savings!

Plan your menu based on what you have on hand, what is on sale, and what is available.

Buy nutrition vs "food." Food fills your belly, but the wrong foods leave you feeling hungry. Nutritionally dense food keeps you fed, satisfied, and healthy.

Stock up as much as you can on what is on sale. It's a worthy financial investment.

Learn when food expires and when it is most nutritious to consume it. Most canned and some other foods lasts much longer than the sell by date. Those huge #10 cans can last 20 years or longer if stored properly. However, the nutritional value can break down as it ages. We try to rotate through all of our #10 cans within 12 months or so.

Grow/provide your own...fruit, meat, vegetables, sprouts, herbs, etc. Our grapevines have produced an abundance of fresh fruit and jelly over the years. We have also produced more vines off of those vines. Money well spent! Most of our friends hunt and/or fish.

Don't waste. You would not believe how much this one simple, but far reaching tip can save you in a year. Use everything you can. For example, I will cook a roast with vegetables in the crock pot, and then save the drippings and left overs to make soup the next night. Save drippings from chicken. The fat can be used in baked goods and the jelly like layer makes a very flavorful bouillon for soups and sauces. Save the juice from canned fruits like peaches, add water, and freeze for popsicles. Take the apple your son didn't finish, cut the rest of it up, and make an apple cinnamon "muffin in a cup" for your snack.

Research recipes from the Great Depression. They tend to use nutritionally dense foods that are cheap and readily available. Those recipes can be spiced up to your liking.

Learn the sale cycles in your favorite stores. You will notice certain items go on sale every so often. Stock up enough to carry you through to the next time that item is on sale.

Learn how to preserve the food you grow or buy. Investing in a freezer can save you big dollars over time. I have lived through lengthy power outages and love pressure canning and dehydration because the food is not electricity dependent.

I make a list and plan my trips online before I go. This really helps me stay within budget.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A very full week

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I have been rendering lard from our pasture raised American Guinea Hogs. Why use lard from pasture raised hogs? Because that kind of lard is healthy and is a good choice of fat! (I also recommend researching the health benefits of schmaltz vs vegetable shortening and other oils.)

Mine isn't as bright white as it could be if I had used the fat from only certain areas, but I want to make the most of what the hogs gave us for our large family and our pets. My adult children have asked me to supply their pantries with it too. I might get more picky as I meet demand.

This is a busy season for me. In addition to rendering the lard, I've been pressure canning a few dozen quarts of stock, approximately 135 lbs of chicken, and 150 lbs of pork. Tomorrow, I am going to make schmaltz (rendered chicken fat). I've also started several types of seeds for our garden, made three new raised beds, and filled our small incubator with eggs. I've had a house full of sick kids and am sick myself. I am a tired but happy woman.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Prayer Request

Our friends have had a rough pregnancy journey. They were told to abort the baby several times even though a few doctors held out hope that something could be done. One doctor was especially cruel saying they would not try monitor baby during delivery "If it dies, it dies." This same doctor told them, "You have other children. Be happy with that." 

Despite being told the baby would not make it to the third trimester, to full term, through labor... their baby was born alive last night. However, little Verlin does have major health issues and will not be here for long. 

Please keep the family in prayer for comfort and peace as they let their sweet baby go back to the Lord. They take great comfort in the fact that they have left this little one's life solely in God's hands. Thank you!

An update from the mother: "Just an update here: family is here now and we are enjoying today with our special little man who will most likely gain his Heavenly body later today once we take him off life support. We have agreed that it is in his best interest not to prolong his suffering as his lungs are underdeveloped and he has no kidneys or arteries to the bladder. Pray for us as this journey isn't easy for anyone!"

And later: "With heavy hearts we have to say that our precious Verlin peacefully passed away this afternoon. We are delighted that we had 23 hours with our precious son!! Continued prayers would be appreciated!"