Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Farm Stay US

Looking for a unique and memorable vacation?  Why not stay on a farm?

About ten years ago Scottie Jones and her husband Greg grew tired of the Phoenix traffic and packed up their family to settle in Alsea, Oregon, between Corvallis and the ocean.  They have developed a wonderful farm where they raise sheep, turkey, and hay.  They have also made their farm available to overnight guests.

A couple of years ago Scottie noticed that, although they knew of a few farms scattered across the US where people could stay, there was no network.  Farm Stay US grew from out of a desire to serve as a resource to folks who would like a "haycation" -- a chance to stay on a farm, maybe even get involved in the chores.  On their website you'll find opportunities in nearly every state, at reasonable prices.  From tents to cabins to farmhouses, from flowers to livestock, from kitchen privileges to full breakfasts, overnighters to extended visits, you'll find it all at Farm Stay US.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Stress Buster

I have discovered my perfect stress buster -- opera!  We're not talking listening to opera, though for some people that might indeed relieve stress.  (For others, I'm afraid, the sound of opera might actually cause their stress to skyrocket.)  As I said, we're not talking listening; we're talking singing opera.

Driving home recently after a long day of appointments and shopping I was feeling weary, and more than a little stressed.  Still about ten minutes from home, I knew I had to do something to keep myself awake.  So I checked to be sure all my windows were rolled up and I began to belt out my troubles in my best opera voice.  For miles I sang myself silly, my rich and wide vibrato shaking the car as I warbled my way through all the things that were bothering me.  Mile after mile I jumped all over the scale with great intensity (and nice falsetto, I might add), reviewing my day with all the passion and expression usually reserved for the stage.  I tell you, it was something I will not forget, nor would you, if you'd been hidden away in the back seat of my car.

It did the trick -- I arrived home with a weak voice but a light heart.

Next time you think you might explode from the stress of life, drive to the country where you can discover your own falsetto and sing your heart out.  Even if singing opera doesn't relieve your stress, the country drive will do you good.

{Photo Credit}

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mushroom Update

The mushroom growing kit that we got at the Mother Earth News Fair a couple of weeks ago has given us our first harvest of pearl oyster mushrooms!  It took a bit more than the expected ten days, but we  should have them in the window sill, not on the counter. (They advised you keep them out of direct light, but our spot was too well protected, I think).  Once we moved them to the window sill they began to take off!  All the mushrooms in the photos below were in the top right quadrant of the box.  That suggests that we'll get lots more mushrooms during the summer.  Here's how they looked:

Notice the small spores just starting to sprout (the little dark spots) in the photo below.  Rather than harvest all of the mushrooms at the expense of these new little ones, we are going to wait for a day or two to see how they develop before we open the flap on the back of the box and start on our second harvest.

Perhaps you can guess what we had for dinner last night.  That's right, mushroom stir fry!  We found a recipe online that we modified.  With a bowl of miso soup (we held out some tofu and mushrooms we'd prepared for the stir fry to add to the soup) and green salad to fill out the dinner, it was quite tasty. 

Oyster Mushroom Stir Fry

16 oz extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
10 oz bottle of Soy Ginger Sauce
6 oz oyster mushrooms (about 2 1/2 c), coarsely chopped
1 c peeled and shredded carrots (about 2 carrots)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 c green beans, cut in 2-inch pieces
1/2 red, yellow or orange pepper, chopped
1 can sliced water chestnuts
7 oz Thai noodles (about half a 14 oz package)

Cut or break noodles in half.  Bring a pan of water to a boil, then turn off the heat.  Drop the noodles into the pan and let them sit for 10 minutes.

Marinate the tofu in the soy ginger sauce for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

Saute onions in olive oil or sesame oil.  Add mushrooms and saute until browned, about 10 minutes.

Add other vegetables, plus the tofu and sauce.  Stir fry till vegetables are brown and tender.

Finally, drain the noodles and add to stir fry.  Mix well and serve.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Boundary Lines in Pleasant Places

I saw a friend on Saturday, a pastor I've known for a long time who has struggled with health issues over the past several years.  I asked him about his health and he replied that it has been a  problem but he has not been undone by it.  And then he told me about Psalm 16:6:  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

"As I read this the other day," he said, "I saw it in a new light.  We go through seasons in our lives, and boundaries get drawn around us during each season.  We may not like the boundaries, we feel constrained by them.  But it's where we are right now.  I wonder how many of us can see the place where we are as a pleasant place?"

After all, the boundary lines don't fall from the sky willy nilly.  The Lord, who directs our steps, is the One who establishes them.  He knows us, where we are, what we need.  Can we rest in Him, no matter where our boundaries are, and rejoice?

There's a lot going on in my world just now that needs sorting.  When we accept our situations as "pleasant," we no longer have to live with discontent.  Nor do we have to struggle with the things that need sorting out in our lives.  According to Pastor Pat, it's God's job to sort them out; it's our job to rest.  As I learn more and more to live this way, I'm finding it to be very pleasant indeed.  Surely I have a delightful inheritance!

Technical Difficulties

Oops!  Well, I guess I won't be posting any time soon.  I'm having trouble with the computers -- neither one is very cooperative this morning -- and need to dash in a few minutes for a day of shopping!  You might try back at three minutes to nine tonight.  Then again, I may still be out.  (Let's hope not!)

Have a beautiful, happy day, drenched in the love and peace of Christ.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Summer Schedule

Summer arrives in a few days, and with it, a revised schedule for this blog.  I'll be posting just three days a week -- Monday, Wednesday and Friday -- at three minutes to nine, of course.

If you've got anything you'd like to share, such as photos of what you're doing at 8:57 (hint!), drop me a line at the address found on the contact link on my blog profile.

Now for some one-liners.  We have a resident supplier of them at the fitness class I attend.  Here are a couple he shared this week.  Thanks, Ray, for adding your wit and wisdom to the class through your one-liners!

"I may not always be right, but I'm never in doubt!"

"We don't know where we're going, but we're making great time!"

Have a wonderful weekend, and a Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Two Great Ladies

On this day in history, one great lady arrived in the US and another began her departure from the US.  Both are well known and represent the spirit of America.  Who were they?

In 1855, Lady Number One arrived in New York in 350 pieces, requiring over 200 packing boxes.  A gift of friendship from France, Lady Liberty was designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.  It took 16 months to reassemble her and set her up on Bedloe Island, where she welcomed newcomers to the United States for her first six years, before being moved to Ellis Island.  Standing 151 feet tall and weighing 225 tons, she continues to inspire a spirit of hope in the hearts of those who dream.

On this day seventy-three years later, in 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.  She'd begun flying just seven years earlier and made this trip in 20 hours and 40 minutes.  I wonder, did her flight plan include a fly-by over  the Statue of Liberty?

Thursday, June 16, 2011


While browsing the DVDs at the library the other day, I took a chance on a BBC drama I had not heard of before.  On more than one occasion I've brought home movies that didn't make it past the first few minutes of viewing, so I was prepared to turn this off and play the piano or clean the bathroom if the movie proved to be a bust.

In fact, it was quite the opposite.  The five-part series was an absolute delight!

From the opening song and the beautiful diorama-like drawings of the village of Cranford to the last fading scene of episode five, we were transported to the 1840s of northwest England where we had an intimate look into the lives of wonderfully developed characters and their intricately woven stories.

Change is afoot in Cranford.  The railway is pushing closer to this idyllic community, threatening to disturb Cranford's way of life.  And a young doctor, whose modern ways are not completely welcomed, catches the fancy of some of Cranford's single ladies.

Cranford is about community, and etiquette, and relationships, and social issues, and people.  Mostly it's about people.  Typically in a drama there are two or three main story lines; in Cranford each character has his or her own unfolding story.  Each one is told with sensitivity, humor and feeling.  No actor is in a supporting role; they are all an integral part of Cranford.

Based on three books by Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford drew us in by its attention to detail, its warm and tender treatment of relationships throughout the community, its care for the poor, its insights into the human condition, and its many laugh-out-loud moments.

It's a story a century-and-a-half old that shines with meaning for today.  Bravo for Cranford!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Farmer's Reflections

When we lived in Western New York in the early 1990s, we published a magazine called Family Scrapbook.  Tom wrote a column called "The Family Farm" and we used this drawing he created to illustrate the column.  Today's blog post was one of his columns; it appeared in the July/August 1994 issue of the magazine.

There is a sense of history that comes with land.  I feel it anyway.  It comes over me when I grab a handful of earth or pause to enjoy the heavily perfumed summer breeze as it plays among the leaves.

The apple trees whose blossoms lent their own fragrance to the landscape not so long ago sprang up down by the now deserted B&S (Buffalo and Susquahana) railroad grade.  The rails, laid down to facilitate local commerce in 1905, were prematurely pulled up and sent to Europe in 1915 to support the war effort.  As fortune would have it, they never made it to their destination and now rest someplace at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.  However, their legacy remains.  And although not every tree that sprang up along the B&S bore good fruit, those that did represent some really notable old varieties.  When I pick one I can imagine the smoke rising from the steam engine as it wound its way through our valley.  The haunting blast of the whistle is something wonderful that my generation missed.

So the train passed from the local scene just as the canal barges had before them and brings me back to our farm and being connected to the past.  Ownership of my parents' land can be traced to the original deed.  It was issued by the Holland Land Company that had helped develop the New England colonies.  They had purchased vast tracts of land from the King of England, had it surveyed, and sold it to early settlers from the old world.  The farmers that settled these land grants hastily cleared the lush hardwood forests and sent the logs down the canals on flat boats to faraway mills.

When those quick profits dwindled, the land that had been cleared was used for another cash crop -- hay.  The growing nation had great need for this commodity to fuel the horse drawn conveyances of that day.  But crop after crop took its toll, and when the soil was finally spent the land owners by and large pulled up stakes, leaving an impoverished land that is still with us today.

So the task at hand is one of renewal -- to put more back into the land than we take out.  The first job last year was to plow.  This broke up the hard soil, bringing it back into contact with life-breathing air, while at the same time pulling up compacted and much needed minerals.   But along with the minerals came more history.  Not history in the geological sense of unearthed strata left from earlier glacial debris. but really unusual man-made things that, if they could talk, would surely tell an interesting tale.

My finds have all been in the new garden sites by our home.  I regularly find farm implements, but they are not so remarkable, because they have a habit of getting lost and found.  But what stories could that old corroded pistol tell?  Was there a duel or long forgotten battle, and I, years later, had just stumbled on the spot where it had been dropped?  Or how about that 1855 dime hat I discovered completely by accident not ten feet from the spot the pistol had been found.  The plow had turned it up while folding over the soil.  I spied the unnaturally round object while walking over the newly-turned furrows, kicking clods of dirt.  If the blade of the plow had been just a millimeter higher or lower it never would have been seen.
1855 dime on top of the original farm deed

These kinds of things really stir my imagination.  They also add substance to my sense of place and love for the land.  What can each of us learn when we spend just a moment reflecting and considering the "garden" God has entrusted to our care?

Monday, June 13, 2011


I love color and I love whimsey.  I love handmade wooden items and I love glass.  I love my family and I love Legion Park.  So I was pretty happy yesterday when Tom and I took Dad and Mom to Everett to the last couple of hours of the Sorticulture Garden Art Festival at Everett's Legion Park.

This was Sorticulture's 14th year.  With over 100 vendors, offering everything from exotic outdoor succulents to birdhouses to water features, there was plenty to inspire gardeners as they dreamed about creating their own outdoor environment.

Here are a few photos of the things that caught my eye:

A garden of miniatures 

Table and chairs made from old wine barrels 

Shovel birds, turtles and puppies
made from recycled metal 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Love One Another

I was listening to the radio yesterday and a man called in with a question about John 13:34 and 35: A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.  "What does that love look like?" the caller asked.

Here is the essence of the radio host's response:

Man's natural attitude is for each of us to put ourselves above others.  We look out for Number One;  this is just how we are as humans.  We try to get things from others to build ourselves up.

According to Old Testament law, we are commanded to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).  If you have two coats and you see someone with no coat, you should give him one of your coats.  This kind of love is admirable.  It puts us and others on the same level, making sure we treat others as well as we want to be treated.

But Jesus took it a step further still.  We are to love others as He loves us.  His is a sacrificial love.  He put us before Himself when He laid down His life for us.  This love sacrifices for the sake of someone else, so that if you see someone with no coat and you yourself have one, you give your coat to him.  

 Paul described it like this: "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10).  This kind of love is the evidence of the presence of Christ in the lives of His followers.  We have been shown the ultimate love by Chris't sacrifice on the cross.  Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).  In gratitude, and filled with the love of Christ, we love others.

This love does not come naturally!  It's a radical, remarkable love; it's Jesus loving through His followers.  And the world is hungry for this kind of love. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hymn of the Month -- Love Divine, All Love Excelling

I wanted to share this hymn for a couple of reasons.  For one thing, Love Divine, All Love Excelling, written by Charles Wesley, is a wonderful invitation to the Lord to dwell with us, work in our lives, and prepare us to live in His presence in Heaven.  You'll find the lyrics at the end of the post.

But I also wanted to introduce you to this amazing resource, the Library of Congress' National Jukebox.  It is just one of the many services of the Library of Congress, which houses more than 147 million items on 838 miles of shelves!  The National Jukebox has over 10,000 historical sound recordings, all made between 1901 and 1925.

This particular recording features the voices of Lucy Isabelle Marsh and Harry Mcdonough, and was recorded over 100 years ago!  Click here to hear the hymn, Love Divine, All Love Excelling.

Hymn Lyrics
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of Heav'n to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its beginning,
Set our heart at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return, and never,
Nevermore Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in Heav'n we take our place,
Till wee cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.
(Copyright: Public Domain)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Garden in my Kitchen

We picked up a couple of fun projects at the Mother Earth News Fair last weekend.  At the Mitsubishi booth, where they were featuring electric cars, we received a couple of starter gardening kits, one for basil and the other for zinnias.  And we purchased a mushroom garden from the Back to the Roots booth. 

The zinnia will be sent to Tommy, who's working out-of-state this summer and wants to "grow something."  The basil got planted and now sits on our kitchen windowsill, preparing to sprout!  No matter how often I've seen it happen, still it is amazing to witness a tiny seed planted, sprouting, growing, bearing fruit, and providing food, beauty, and pleasure for people!

On our kitchen counter we are now growing mushrooms in a box!  Mycelium (the vegetative part of the mushroom) is mixed in with recycled coffee grounds, packaged in a biodegradable box, and sold at Whole Food Markets across the country, where they are flying off the shelves.  One box can grow up to a pound of pearl oyster mushrooms.
The packaged product

The contents

Tear off the front flap and cut a + in the plastic soil bag.

Soak it for 24 hours.

Return the bag to the box, mist with water twice a day, and
watch the mushrooms grow!
Stay tuned for a mushroom report in about 10 days!  In the meantime, you might enjoy watching a video about the two young men who, in their senior year at UC Berkley began this product line that is growing even faster than their mushrooms.  It's a fascinating story.  You'll find it here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Farm to Fork Coming to Whispering Winds Farm

My friend Char Byde asked me to pass on this invitation to their Farm to Fork buffet style dinner on July 16. She was featured on my blog last summer.  You are invited to join them for a great evening.

Freshly Doug Vegetables from 2010

Whispering Winds Farm, Stanwood, WA, owned and operated by Doug and Char Byde, is hosting its first Farm to Fork buffet style dinner event on Saturday, July 16, 2011 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.   The farm is well-known in the area for producing reasonably priced, certified organic vegetables under the Freshly Doug Vegetables logo. 
The dinner menu includes fabulous produce grown on the farm, prepared  by local Chef  Devra Gartenstein, and featuring vegetarian recipes from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook  by Debra Daniels-Zeller.  Ms. Daniels-Zeller is a local Edmonds author and will be on hand to sign copies of her book.   
More of Char and Doug's veggies from last year
The buffet style dinner will be served at assigned seating times of 4, 5 and 6 p.m.  The event will be held rain or shine as dinner will be served using the lower floor of their circa 1938 Heritage Barn.  The proposed menu will include Halibut mixed with grated potatoes (Chef Devra's recipe), Fennel Carrots, Romanesco with Northwest Berry Vinaigrette, and dessert.        
Live music will be provided by the acoustical duo of Diane Wood Bachsler and Tara Caldwell Wolfe of Cabin Fever,  Their music is said to "lift your heart and soul."  They will be playing from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. 
Local wines will also be featured at the event.  
Guests are encouraged to arrive at any time after 3:00 p.m. and wander the grounds.  The farm has much to offer, including  a self-guided tour of the certified organic vegetable gardens, a small orchard, wide array of flowers, alpacas, pygmy goats, chickens, and rabbits.  The Bydes have implemented several strategies to outwit Mother Nature, including the use of raised beds and hoop houses.   Guests are encouraged to bring a camera with fully charged batteries.
Char Byde

Asked why the Bydes were opening their farm to the public through an event of this type, Char Byde replied that "we have a tendency to take our food and food supply for granted, especially when it's so easy to run to the store and buy what we want, without regard to seasons.  Supermarkets do serve an important purpose, by providing consumers with product, but it's also important for people to understand what it takes to get food to market and to actually grow great tasting food.  And, with all of the publicity about food safety and getting to know your farmer, we thought this would provide consumers with an opportunity to experience our small farm operation."      
 If you are interested in attending this event, contact Char at 425-220-3903 or  For updated information visit  Tickets are available for $45/person.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mother Earth News Fair

Back before it was fashionable to grow your own food, mill your own flour, and make your own cheese, my husband was doing all of that.  His garden in Ballard was the envy of the neighborhood, his pigeon loft full of well-fed, happy birds who kept finding their way home.  And he was an avid reader of Mother Earth News.

Of course, when Mother Earth News announced that they would be coming to the Puyallup Fair Grounds this past weekend, he wanted to go.

So we spent Saturday at the fair, sitting in on seminars and demonstrations, chatting with exhibitors, sampling goodies, and waiting in a very long line to buy our lunch!  We talked to the creator of FarmStayU.S., who has created a directory of farms around the country where travelers can spend the night and even work on the farm; we purchased a mushroom growing kit; we chatted with representatives from Solar Cookers International, who encourage and assist people around the world to harness the power of the sun through the use of solar cookers. All of these are topics for future blogs.

Tom spent a couple of hours in a seminar about grafting fruit trees.  He loved it and feels confident that with all his previous reading and this demonstration, he's now ready to graft some dwarf trees for himself.

From the moment we pulled out of our driveway till we got home again, we had a delightful day.  The weather was perfect, Mt Rainier was on its best behavior, and we laughed, dreamed, and explored together.  It was a glorious day!

Morning in our front yard

My chauffeur

Bring the whole family!

A couple of solar cookers

Trying out a "portable chair" that supports your back! 

Wood carving demonstration

Newly shorn alpaca


Grafting an apple tree

Mt Rainier from the Puyallup Valley

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Shirt Ironing Machine

Tell me it isn't so!  There is now a machine for ironing shirts -- I may become obsolete!  Don't tell Tom about this; I have a birthday coming up in August, and I don't want him to get me one.  (Never mind that they are only available in Germany and it would cost him $1809.)  But go ahead and check it out here.  It may be just the thing you're in the market for.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Great I AM

Photo Credit
Moses was having a bad day.  God was calling him to lead the Hebrew slaves from Egypt to the Promised Land, and Moses didn't want to do it.  He felt unqualified, inadequate.  Here is one of his arguments:

Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?'  Then what shall I tell them?"  God said to Moses, "I am who I am.  That is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Exodus 3:13-14)

This morning as I was reading Isaiah 43 I was impressed by the number of ways God refers to Himself, revealing Himself to be the Great I AM.  Here is a list of the names He calls Himself in Isaiah 43:
      the Lord your God (v 3)
      the Holy One of Israel (v 3)
      your Savior (v 3)
      God (v 12)
      from ancient days I am he (v 13)
      your Redeemer (v 14)
      the Lord (v 15)
      your Holy One (v 15)
      Israel's Creator (v 15)
      your King (v 15)

God also reveals Himself in this chapter as the one who "called you by name," the ever-present One, and the protector (all found in verse 2); the God who is with us (v 5); the Only God (v 10-11); the God of new things and the way-maker (v 10); and the faithful judge (v 26-28).

Rejoice!  You were made by the Great I AM, He loves you, and He is with you.  It is He who says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior" (Isaiah 43:3).

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Today is June 2.  On this day in 1886, US President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom.  She was 21, the youngest First Lady ever, and he was the only president to be married in the White House.

Yesterday was Oscar the Grouch's birthday.  I'm sorry I didn't know in time to give you a heads-up sooner.

June is National Ice Tea month.  Here's how we make our ice tea, and it's quite delicious -- and very easy.  You might like to try it.

If you're looking for an outing for the weekend, consider attending the Mother Earth News Fair at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.  They're billing it as a fun-filled, family-oriented sustainable lifestyle event.  The schedule is full of interesting seminars, with a track of hands-on events for the kids.  We plan to go on Saturday; maybe we'll see you there!

Hey, one more thing!  What's happening in your world at three minutes to nine?  Pick up that camera and snap a few pictures to share with us.  You can send them to  I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Adopt A Spot

When Stanwood High School teacher Clarene Ricarte received a $500 Compassion Schools Grant to fund a project that would bring students and community together, she bought bark and paint and set yesterday, May 31, as the day for sprucing up the campus.  Students, staff, parents, and community members joined forces -- 1400 in all -- to wash windows, paint curbs and parking strips, weed, fix picnic tables, fill potholes and other projects to improve the appearance of the buildings and grounds.  Students worked with their advisory groups for the two-hour project, which began at 8:46 yesterday morning, with each group choosing (adopting) the area of the campus where they would like to work.

I got a call from a community volunteer, letting me know that at 8:57 I might like to be on campus to get some pictures.  It was great seeing the campus humming with dozens of groups scattered across the campus, cleaning up.  This was a tangible way to help the students take some responsibility for their school and to take pride in its appearance.  Kudos to Mrs Ricarte and all who helped with this massive effort!