Back to the Land, Back to God

There is a disconnect today between eaters and food sources.  I think this is becoming a fundamental problem with society.  When we lose sight of our food sources, of what else do we lose sight?  Because, ultimately, what (or Who) is the source of the food which sustains us?

We had a young visitor to our homestead one day and, on seeing our chickens, she asked “Do they lay eggs?  Can you eat them?!?”  Her questions aren’t the exception.  Most people today give little to no thought to the source of the food they eat.  Here in the United States, food is, for the most part, plentiful and easily accessible.

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When we become so far removed from the source of our food supply, we cease thinking about the steps that brought that food to our table.  We eat for nothing more than the base instinct of survival.  When we turn back to the land, be it through homesteading, supporting the local farmers market, or growing a small backyard garden, we reconnect to the Source of our food.  We eat for community, pleasure, and personal connection.

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When we raise just the smallest bit of our own food, even a pot of tomatoes on the back porch, or converse with our farmer at Saturday’s market, we remember all that goes into the process of putting food on the table.  We also are reminded of Who is in charge of the success of that tomato plant or the laying of the eggs that fill your carton.  The farmer works hard to bring you healthy food, but at the end of the day, Mother Nature is truly calling the shots.  It doesn’t matter how well I tend my flock, when God makes the days short and dark, there’s nothing I can do to make those ladies lay!

This brings me to contemplate; is our disconnect from the land causing a disconnect from God?  When we, as a society, lose sight of the source from which our food comes, we lose sight of He who gave it to us.   Perhaps the greatest gift of the current “back to the land” movement that we are seeing will be a turning back to God.

A person working his own piece of land relies on the whims of Mother Nature.  He watches the temperature shift in early spring, signalling him to tap the maple trees, he watches the flowers open and knows that the honey will soon be flowing in the hive, he sees the night time lows consistently staying above freezing, letting him know it’s time to plant.  All of these things are out of his control.  It is in working with Mother Nature that homesteader will find success.  In turning back to the land, we really do turn back to God.  Perhaps some won’t be as distinctly aware of this as others, but it is inevitable.  We can’t work this land without working with He who made it.

 

Oh sap!

 

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Four quarts is a gallon.

We were finally able to finish our syrup making this weekend.  This is our second year making syrup and we learned a great deal both year.  Mainly, SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE.  It was quite the chore this year.  We tried the propane burner, which was painfully slow and oddly messy.  We moved on to the wood fire, which was also slow and so time consuming.

We finally threw out the white flag of surrender and moved inside to the stove.  Keep in mind that my stove currently has this nice glitch wherein you can only use one burner (two, if you’re lucky!) at a time without losing power.  To the whole house.*

We were able to make it work, but it was a little messy.  It produced a lot of steam and, despite the oven fan running on high (LOUD!), I was constantly wiping sticky condensation off of the fan and cabinet.  The girls kept the humor by singing “Boil, boil syrup pot!  Boil my syrup, nice and hot!”  Luckily, the boil overs were kept to a minimum.

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But we survived!  And we have a gallon and a half of beautiful syrup for our efforts.  It was worth the trouble, but we would really like to set up some sort of evaporator next year.  Sixty gallons of sap was definitely the limit for this make-shift set up.

Have you boiled gobs of sap to syrup?  What’s your favorite set up?

*Currently taking new stove suggestions!  Do you run a stove on propane and love it?  Tell me, please!!

Kids on the Homestead

It’s taken me days to write this post, which is a testament to the fact that KIDS + HOMESTEAD= a serious lack of extraneous time!  This lack of time has brought me all the way to Friday, without a new post, so naturally, this will become a “Seven Quick Takes”!

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1. These kids!  This homestead!  It’s a truly wonderful combination.  I love to see the kids love nature here, in a way they weren’t able before.  The girls fill their satchels with fairies and snacks and take to the woods for hours.  They fuel their imaginations with nature and fresh air.

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2.  Learning!  We are learning all the time out here and the kids learn right along side us.  We didn’t know much about homesteading when we took this plunge and we’ve learned so much along the way.  It’s not just the knowledge we’ve gained that’s important, but the lessons we’ve taught this gang of kids.  Hopefully, they’ve learned that it’s never too late to learn new things or start new adventures.  And, it’s ok to fail!  I’m looking at you, weedy garden.  I trust that the kids see these things, see us not letting failure be a barrier, and learn from us.

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3.  We don’t raise our animals as pets, but as a food source.  That said, we believe that they deserve a happy, healthy, natural life.  We feed them well, we give them warm, clean shelter, and when the time comes, we butcher as humanly as possible.  The kids are involved in all steps of our animal care and they really do love the animals.  They see how the animals serve us and we, in turn, care for them.  This connection to creation and to our food is so important.

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4.  The animals, but also the (sometimes failing!) garden give these kids a strong connection to their food and from where it comes.  I remember watching a Jamie Oliver show a few years ago, where he’d go into schools to talk to them about food.  The children were so disconnected from their food sources that they couldn’t name vegetables or tell from were french fries came.  I thought I was doing so well on this front, until yesterday.  Avila picked up a red pepper and proclaimed “Hey!  We can make ketchup!”

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5.  Work hard, play hard.  The kids have really learned the value of hard work.  They don’t always love it, but they are generally willing and always please with the final result.  When Christopher first started chopping wood, it was a difficult task that took loads of concentration.  He dreaded it, as the learning part wasn’t very fun.  Now that he’s become a proficient ax wielder, he truly loves splitting the logs, loading the wheelbarrow, and stacking the wood for our fires.  He is proud of his beautiful stacks of split wood and the important contribution it is to the family.

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6.  We can always climb higher.  Literally and figuratively.  Of course, kids are always quick to scope out the best climbing trees.  There is a particularly beloved Maple Tree that all of the kids love to climb and the heights to which they climb can frighten this mama heart.  In that same way, this homestead life is always challenging their imaginations to reach higher heights, to stretch and grow.IMG_1530

7.  Team work!  Come what may, we are in this crazy adventure together.  We are a team, sometimes a slightly insane team, but a team none the less!  We need each player to pitch in, to add reason, and mostly just to make us laugh and have more fun.  That’s the most important lesson that I hope they carry with them in life.

(For more quick takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!)

Seven Quick Takes

 

— 1 —

IMG_2468Is it spring yet?  Indiana seems to be confused.  It’s been a long and whiney week, here.  I think the kids are all annoyed by the cold, soggy weather.  Little snippets of spring weather have us all the more disgruntled with the cold!

— 2 —

Our taps have been in for quite some time now.  I had thought we were too early with our tapping, but looking at the forecast, I think we were right on.  The sap froze the last few days and hasn’t been running, but it’s given me time to deal with what we already had.  I have a scant 2 quarts of syrup and almost 15 gallons of sap yet to boil.

IMG_2297— 3 —

Speaking of frozen sap!  Over night, some of the sap in the buckets froze.  I didn’t have solid blocks, but just frozen sides and the top.  It turns out that freezing is an age-old method of condensing the sugars in the sap.  I scooped out the ice and was left with a sap that has a higher concentration of sugars that before.  This is great, because it makes that painfully slow process of boiling go a little more quickly.

— 4 —

IMG_2435I’ve turned my camera to “manual” and plan to keep it there as a means of forcing myself to learn how to use it.  It’s slow going!  Bear with me through the awful pictures and shower me with suggestions for improvement!  This little lemon tree blossom (of which I took roughly 10 zillion pictures…this is the best.  Ugh) smells delightful.  People had told me that the smell was amazing, but I was still stunned!  Maybe it will cover up the stinky boy-shoe smell in my sunroom?  A mama can dream!

— 5 —

IMG_2444Seeds!!  So. Many. Seeds!  I plotted out my garden and organized my seeds yesterday.  I’m not sure why I have 7 varieties of pepper, but I do!  I ordered a ton of seeds from Seeds Now!, which I’ve ordered from in the past and been happy.  And their prices are great!  We are majorly overhauling our garden this year, so I’m hopeful for success.  I need to start those seedlings soon.  I also ordered a bunch of flowers from Baker’s Heirloom Seed Co.  Our flower garden is the one garden that has consistently been successful!

— 6 —

IMG_2458These ladies are starting to lay again.  We’ve seen a slow uptick in production.  It’s the time of year when sweet little chicks start to show up in the farm stores, so I’m holding my breath until Andrew starts bringing them home.  He goes in for pine shavings and comes out with a dozen ducklings and chicks.  Ducklings!  Hopefully we will have some around here soon.

— 7 —

IS IT SPRING YET??