Garden: growing

from when we planted, just six weeks ago:


 to this:


I've done my first canning of the season:


9 jars of nectarine jam with raspberries and strawberries.  The berries are from our yard, and the nectarines were from the store. 

I canned so much jam last year that I don't think I'll have to do much this year, actually.  I still have several jars in the cupboard and the freezer.

I'm always looking for new recipes for my rhubarb, too.  We have thriving rhubarb plants that keep getting bigger every year, and I try my best to keep up with all of it.  So far this year we've made Rhubarb Crisp, Rhubarb Coffee cake, Rhubarb muffins, and a strawberry-rhubarb sauce to put atop our waffles.

I recently discovered some canning recipes for rhubarb that intrigued me, so last night I canned something called Victorian Barbecue Sauce, with another variation called Spicy Rhubarb Chutney.  It's basically barbecue sauce using rhubarb as the main ingredient, (but if you don't puree it it could be called a chutney.)


Although I relied on the chutney recipe (above), I pureed it because chutney scares me.  I left out the allspice, and wish I'd reduced the cinnamon.  I also added garlic, smoked paprika and slightly more salt than the recipe had called for.  And I wished for some chipotle peppers, but even without them it was actually pretty tasty!  I plan to throw it in the crock pot with some roasts in the fall and winter months.
this years' preserves are going in on the left, last years are on the right.  (and there are still LOTS of jars of applesauce and green beans from last year in other cupboards.)

Anniversary questions

Our anniversary is at the end of the month (17 years!) and we already went away to celebrate together. We went to the ocean-- and had a wonderful time.  It was restful and romantic.  We ate good food, played games (Arms & Legs and Scrabble), talked a LOT, listened to good music, walked on the beach for hours, watched a movie together and ate ice cream.  So pretty much perfect.  Oh.  And the weather was BEAUTIFUL.


I love time away with Mark, and especially all that time to communicate without five interrupters!  Many times when we go away together, I jot down some questions in my journal to ask him.  I try to look at each role in his life and ask questions around each one.  I take notes, too, as he answers, so that I know how to best pray for him or follow up with him.  Here are this year's questions:

{relationship with God}
What is one strength or praise this year in your relationship with God?
What is one weakness this year in your relationship with God?
In what areas would you like to grow this year?- think practically
Something you learned about God this year?
Verse or passage that was memorable to you this past year?

{us/our relationship}
What were our strengths this year/what did we do right?
What were our weaknesses/areas for growth?
What are our plans to make those things ^ happen?
Best memories (up to 3)?
Two hardest things we faced together?
How could I have/can I still love you better through those hard things?
One thing I did to make you happy?
Something I do that makes you feel respected?
One thing I did that makes you crabby?
If there was one thing you could change about our nighttime routine, what would it be?
If there was one thing you would add to our daily routine, what would it be?
Best thing about our sex life?
Growth area for sex?

Favorite memory with.... (each child)
What are your current or ongoing challenges/frustrations with.... (each child)
If you had more time with.... (each child).... what would you do with him/her?
What area do you think.... (each child) needs to be affirmed/encouraged in?
What is our plan to do this?
What is one trip you'd like to take/thing you'd like to do together this year as a family?
What are some ways you see us serving as a family?

Most frustrating thing?
Most memorable moment?
Relationship(s) you'd like to invest in/plan for that to happen?
How can I pray for you?

{homeschool} I purposefully made this section short, because we have a homeschool planning day coming up together and we do a homeschool evaluation then.
First three words that come to mind when you hear the word "homeschool".
Two things you'd like to see happen this coming year.

{extended family/friends}
Name three couples/families you want to have over for dinner this year?
Any goals for time spent with your parents or siblings?  Plans to meet those goals:

What ONE project would you like to complete....
What two areas of the house would you like to see cleaner?

Name two things you would like us to in terms of our finances this next year.

Favorite song this year?
Favorite podcast?
Do you need more alone time?


Today's bounty
Our strawberry plants are happily producing berries, and we're picking daily-- whatever we can get to before the squirrels and possums do, that is.  (Naughty Pests.)

Our yellow raspberries began ripening last week, but today was our first picking for our red raspberries.  (I have nectarines in the house right now, too- and I'm dreaming up some raspberry-nectarine jam, just as soon as I can get to the grocery store for some pectin!  Mmm!)

Our sweet old girl

Flora, this morning
We got our first little flock of backyard chickens seven years ago.  We began with four chickens: Missy, Henriletta, Dora and Flora.  Now we have a flock of twelve, and Flora is the only remaining chicken from our first flock.

She has definitely slowed way down over the last year.  She rests a lot more during the day.  She has her favorite spot in the outdoor coop area, and she'll often perch herself there during the day and just rest for hours at a time.  Rather than climbing up with the other girls to roost at night, most nights she'll tuck herself into one of the nesting boxes and sleep there.  We've watched how the other chickens respond to her-- knowing that usually when a bird within the flock gets weak or sick, the other birds will begin to torment and peck at the weak bird.  But so far she's held her own as the elder of the flock.  When push comes to shove, she'll fight and put the other chickens in their place, and for the most part, they leave her alone.


Flora is our tamest chicken, and she loves being near us wherever we are.  If we walk into the coop, it is Flora who is at our heels first, clucking and still- waiting to be patted or picked up.  The other chickens might flock around us to see if we're bringing food or scraps, but if they discover there's no food; that we're there only to clean or mend the coop or refill their water, they'll scatter.  But Flora will stay near, following us around the coop, clucking as if she's talking to us.  She's a sweet old bird, and I sort of think of her as the wise old grandma of our flock.

This morning when we opened the door to the coop, Flora didn't get down off her roosting spot.  Ella was concerned so she came in to tell me.  I went out with her and encouraged her to carefully lift her off the roost.  Ella commented that "she felt funny, really skinny and bony".  When we set her in the chicken yard, she sort of flopped and struggled to walk, and I worried what the other chickens would do to her in her weak state.  She also seemed disoriented, and her eyes weren't bright.

We got Flora when Ella was five years old, and Ella loves her dearly

We decided to separate Flora from the rest of the flock for the day.  I fenced in an area of our yard that is right next to our coop, so she can still see and hear the other chickens.  (They're all jealous that she gets to be in the grassy part of our yard.)  Ella set her up with her own food and water.  She drank a bit at first and tried to eat, but couldn't.  She stumbled a bit and then righted herself and just stood in one place, looking disoriented.  It was rather strange.  We added some water to her food- (pellets), in the hopes that it might be easier for her to eat if her food was a bit soggy.  She ate really well after that. 
My concerned girls, watching over Flora
It made us wonder if perhaps she hasn't been eating the chicken food for awhile.  We know she eats scraps when we bring them in and we've seen her drink, and she forages when she's out, but maybe it's been hard for her to eat the pellets.  We'll just wait and see how she does.  She has some very attentive nurses, so I think she'll be well cared for until the end.