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If I were to do an honest year-in-review post it would look something like this: January through April we put in the chicken field and started the summer garden. Fruit trees were planted, perennial herbs were thrown in the ground. May brought news of a new babe and thus began the usual season of morning sickness in which I spent my days trying not to throw up or fall asleep.

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By July that was pretty much over, we tried not to overheat, and then Stewart started showing the early signs of adrenal fatigue. By the second half of August he was down for the count for much of the day. By September he had a full blown health crisis while we were traveling. Since then I’ve gotten bigger, Stewart’s gotten smaller, he’s recovered as much as we could possibly expect, and the year finished with the family flu and Stewart’s back seizing up.

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So that whole “we are homesteaders and here’s what we’ve accomplished” post is something you won’t find here. Instead, today I’d like to declare 2013 a year of humbling spiritual lessons, reality checks, and heart checks. It has been a year of letting go, a year of checking our motivations, a year of truly understanding that He will give us what we need.

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I won’t pretend, though, that this hasn’t been the hardest six months I can remember. Still, for some reason, I can think of only one word to describe 2013: rich.

And as I walk around the homestead I am in awe of the things that did get done. Truly, in the midst of the many times that Stewart and I lay on the floor or the bed in exhaustion and laughed about what a feeble pair we make, the Lord granted so much.

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  • A new chicken coop was built to house a larger flock.
  • The new roofline and water tank were put up, doubling our catch water.
  • That roofline has started to become an extra living space.
  • We had our largest harvest of beans, squash, and sweet potatoes, all of which we’re still happily eating through.
  • At least half of our fruit trees survived the summer heat.
  • A gate went up where only pallets once stood.

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From deep in the trenches of our own physical weakness, He has provided so much more than we could ever imagine or do with our own two hands. Once again, we have seen from Whom all of our needs are met and far surpassed. Such blessings, such rich and plentiful blessings.

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And as I feel this little one within squirm and kick and remind us of the blessings and miracles that surround us, I look so forward to whatever it is He sees fit to bring us in 2014. And I am oh so grateful that “success” here on the homestead is not up to us and our own doings.

 

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Meet Frassers. Her name rhymes with sasser, which might tell you just about all you need to know. She enjoys talking, singing, and frassing; the latter of which you must see in person to fully understand. It’s too much.

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She also loves to help her Daddy. She’s always been an outside girl, this one, but the two of them seem to be spending even more time together as she gets closer to losing her baby throne.

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Last week we all had the flu and as I listen to him continue to hack away, I’m thinking Stewart hasn’t quite kicked it yet like the rest of us.

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But she sure has.

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The boys have continued to help with the floor of the new cabin this week. It’s been slow-going, but that’s alright.

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Don’t you just love a little man in clothes two sizes too big? I know he does actually have clothes his own size, but apparently his brother’s are much too appealing to pass up. Which might also explain why his big brother is wearing clothes two sizes too small.

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Then there’s this guy. Precise. Driven. Always task-oriented. Kind of a task master, if you ask me. He’s definitely the first born and you can count on him to do a job right. If it weren’t for him, I’m sure this place and his Mama would be a complete disaster. Oh wait…

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but lately I don’t have a lot of words. I sit down and write and can’t hit publish. I sit down and want to write but nothing happens. Maybe next week I’ll finish that year-end homesteading post, or maybe I’ll finally publish that one on animal feed or that recipe for bread.

But right now, I think I’ll savor these people, these photos, and these memories as a family of five. Because, with everything else that needs pulling together before this little one joins us, that’s about all I’ve got in me.

 

I’ve been thinking about additional parts of this series for a long time during my up and down recovery.  If you missed the first part I encourage you to go back and read Part 1 so that you have the context for Part 2.  I’ve put off writing this part for awhile, partly because I’ve frequently been too tired, and partly because I just kept putting it off.  I hope this part is a blessing for you in some way.

As I was starting to recover from the round of fatigue I mentioned in Part 1 of this series I made a lot of mistakes that led to a much more severe relapse, from which I’m still trying to recover.  This was back in early September.  I was tired, but not so tired at that point that I couldn’t do some things.  I also was feeling well enough to start plotting big plans for how to accomplish several things at once: speed my recovery, visit my grandfather in the hospital, and get some work done to make some money to build more infrastructure on the homestead.  This plan revolved around traveling up to Missouri for a week or two to visit my grandfather.  While there I hoped I could also try to finish some computer projects I had without some of the unbearable heat that seemed to be lingering in our cabin from late summer weather.  I also wanted to try to fit the trip into early September so we could still get back and have a fall garden.  Also, I didn’t want to leave before our community work day in early September.  So I was triangulating dates and already applying pressure to myself to make it all happen… ironically because I thought I could get some rest while we were in Missouri too.

Does Anyone See a Problem With This?

I was pushing to run again before I could hardly walk, which can be a physical as well as spiritual problem.  To top all this off, and just to put the icing on the cake of my next health catastrophe, I worked my first full day outside in weeks at around 97 degrees (our community work day).  I then got my family up the next morning at 2:30 a.m. and traveled about 14 hours all the way to Missouri in a van without air conditioning.  We left early to avoid the brutal heat and avoid splitting the day into two traveling days .  Yes, you now know how to spell stupid… and it starts with Stew… and ends in artful form… kind of like Stew-Art.

Immediately upon arrival to Missouri I was exhausted.  Then the next few days I went to visit my grandfather in the hospital every day.  Seeing someone you love in the hospital is heart breaking and stressful.  About the 3rd or 4th day in my grandfather also developed some complications, which added to an already difficult visit.  It was after this that I came home one day and couldn’t finish my dinner, in fact I could barely start.  It seemed like the life drained out of me in some sort of systemic crash.  I went to bed in the middle of dinner and didn’t get up for several hours.  We figure it was probably a blood sugar crash.

The next day, still feeling quite tired, we decided I probably ought to see someone about it since the problem was coming back and getting worse from a few weeks prior.  We visited a chiropractor’s office that also dealt with nutrition… however, somehow the scheduling got mixed up so I ended up seeing the guy who dealt with Sport’s Nutrition instead of regular nutrition that we wanted to see.  However, I still managed to end up with a few good supplements.  That day passed without major incident and I started a few of the additional supplements.

The following day a little after lunch I went down again hard.  I slept for a few hours and woke up feeling very weak.  I managed to walk out to where Shannon was to talk to her.  Somehow in my discussion I don’t think I managed to convey the seriousness of how I felt.  So I got myself over to the refrigerator to try to find something to boost my blood sugar.  By the time I got over there I could hardly stand up.  So I got on my knees while looking through the refrigerator.  I found some V8 juice that had fruit juice in it and took some swigs, trying not to keel over on the spot.  Somewhere in this process Shannon found me and wondered what was going on.  I never passed out, but I came a lot closer than I would have liked.  I did have to put my head almost on the floor while trying to get my body together enough to stand up.  I downed a couple of adrenal supplements as well.  After an hour or so my body started to come out of it.

By this time we were trying to put all the pieces together.  We realized that over the last year or two I’d had several prior incidents of being really tired for a couple weeks to the point of not being able to do hardly anything.  This was just a progression and acute situation of what we believe is a bigger chronic fatigue issue.  So we did some research online so we could get a better handle on adrenal fatigue and found there are various stages… and by all accounts I was in the final stage that if not treated could lead to adrenal failure.  Of course, we are not experts and some would suggest (and did) that I should go to the hospital.  However, we did our research there too, and the most likely treatment for my condition if my adrenals were 90% gone would be shots for the rest of my life… a band-aid, not a cure for the underlying issues.  And, if my adrenals were not 90% gone they would probably say come back when they are.  We had to weigh whether getting a bunch of tests done for my condition was worth the money…. and whether or not there was a danger of getting sucked into the medical system and making some decisions too quickly.  I’m not saying what we did is what someone else should do in a similar situation.  I’m just relaying how it went for us up to that point.

Slowing Down is a Blessing

I once again found myself having to rest almost all of the time.  And looking back on it when I’m feeling a little better it doesn’t seem so bad… but honestly at the time we were quite desperate.  I was nonfunctional, Shannon is pregnant, and we were not at home.  Three young children still need to be taken care of every day.  Thankfully, my dad stays at my grandparents to help them out and was able to provide some assistance.

In the meantime, when I wasn’t too tired to do anything, I was able to read a few pages at a time in A.W. Pink’s Gospel of John Commentary again.  And thankfully, the Lord mercifully had me read pages that provided encouragement and hope.  I want to quote part of the page that had the biggest impact on me as I was laying there with questions and doubts.  It is some of Pink’s thoughts on John 6:5, 6:

     What happened to Philip is, in principle and essence, happening daily in our lives.  A trying, if not a difficult, situation confronts us; and we meet with them constantly.  They come not by accident or by chance; instead, they are each arranged by the hand of the Lord.  They are God’s testing of our faith.  They are sent to “prove” us. Let us be very simple and practical.  A bill comes unexpectedly; how are we to meet it? The morning’s mail brings us tidings which plunge us into an unlooked for perplexity; how are we to get out of it?  A cog slips in the household’s machinery, which threatens to wreck the daily routine; what shall we do? An unanticipated demand is suddenly made upon us; how shall we meet it? Now, dear friends, how do such experiences find us?  Do we, like Philip and Andrew did, look at our resources? Do we rack our minds to find some solution? or do our first thoughts turn to the Lord Jesus, who has so often helped us in the past?  Here, right here, is the test of our faith.

O, dear reader, have we learned to spread each difficulty, as it comes along, before God?  Have we formed the habit of instinctively turning to Him?  What is your feebleness in comparison to His power!  What is your emptiness in comparison to His ocean of fulness?  Nothing! Then look daily to Him in simple faith, resting on His sure promise, “My God shall supply all your need” (Phil. 4:19).  Ah! you may answer, It is easy to offer such advice, but is far from easy to act on it.  True. Yea, of yourself it is impossible.  Your need, and my need, is to ask for faith, to plead for grace, to cry unto God for such a sense of helplessness that we shall lean on Christ, and on Him alone.  Thus, ask and wait, and you shall find Him as good as His word. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?  hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Psa. 43:5).

Exposition of the Gospel of John – Three Volumes in One by A.W. Pink p. 290

 

In the next part I hope to convey how one simple passage, mentioned by Pink above, has been burned into my mind and helped me put some pieces together I’d been missing about our whole perspective on homesteading and a process driven life…

 

In the meantime, another post that I recommend is over at The Sifford Sojournal called “Redeeming the Time, Part 2

 

 

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We had quite a few ferments on hand, after a whirlwind vegetable fermentation session last month. I thought those would last us a while, and I suppose they did, but we went through a half-gallon of chlorophyll kraut, a half-gallon of southwestern kraut, and a half-gallon of carrot sticks in just a few weeks.

I can’t emphasize enough how thankful I am for these foods. Stewart’s been drinking the juice off of the top of the lacto-fermented carrot sticks and it really seems to have helped him over these months of recovering from adrenal fatigue. And the children are crazy about them and I’m happy to scoop out another carrot stick or more kraut for their twang-loving pallets.

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I tried out the Perfect Pickler for that chlorophyll kraut. I have my own thoughts on airlocks, which I might share in another context on another day, but the kraut itself turned out wonderfully tangy after a few weeks on the counter.

What has really taken over my kitchen lately, though is sourdough.

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This guy right here is super active. I’m experimenting with the brown rice sourdough starter while developing a bunch of gluten-free sourdough recipes for CFH. You can follow along with the adventure at the CFH blog.

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I’m also quite partial to this rye sourdough starter, which we bake 100% rye bread from. It’s a nice alternative for those who aren’t eating wheat at the moment. Plus, there have been pancakes upon pancakes upon pancakes. Oat pancakes, rye pancakes, rice pancakes, banana pancakes…

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And then there is that rye bread, which I made into buns this past week. It’s a sticky dough, nothing like wheat due to the difference in proteins. But it’s easy to make and we love its dense tang. Upon biting into his roll, our oh-so-serious seven year old proclaimed “Mmm… I love the taste of sourdough.”

Me too!

What’s fermenting in your kitchen?

 

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Pie is something special, is it not? Fill a fatty crust with just about anything sweet or savory and you’ve got a meal or dessert that fills and warms and could easily be mistaken for a slice of love and nourishment all in one. I’m quite partial to a lard pie crust, of course, but these days butter is the fat of choice around here.

Still delicious.

We eat weird food these days, apparently. Last night it was a plate of “dirty rice” and kraut in almost equal proportions. Breakfast is often whatever recipe I’m testing plus fried eggs. It’s not uncommon for a baked sweet potato, beans, and kraut to make up our entire meal. (So if you’re looking for normal people apple pie, might I recommend checking out Tracy’s recipe?)

Speaking of weird, we really don’t eat desserts or treats often – at group gatherings or a couple of times a month in our own home. Part of the reason for this is that some of our family can’t eat wheat or sugar right now. Part of the reason is because sweets are a treat and we try to pass that on to the children, especially since I ate way too many of them in my formative years.

And part of the reason is because we sort of have a no sugar rule. In fact, the only reason we really ever keep it in the house is for kombucha or water kefir. White sugar makes tasty treats, but I have a hard time spending money on something that detracts from the nourishment of our family, instead of adding to it. Thankfully, Stewart agrees… and has more willpower than me anyway, so it works out well.

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So honey and the occasional bag of sucanat are pretty much all we use, the latter being fairly rare as well. Yes, these sweeteners are quite a bit more expensive, but that evens way out when you look at how much we actually consume. Everyone’s got to prioritize, right? This is simply how we’ve done it.

(And let’s not pretend I don’t eat dessert at potluck meals, buy dark chocolate from time to time, and try to create a version of one of Stewart’s favorites when the craving hits. We’re weird, remember, not crazy.)

Back to the topic of pie… I’m considering making more of it. Everyone can eat this recipe. It calls for minimal sweeteners. And the beauty of this gluten-free pie crust is that the texture and flavor are still flaky and delicious when I press the crust into a skillet with my fingertips and skip that whole rolling it out thing.

Wait. Yes, as a matter of fact I did say that you simply press the crust into a cast-iron skillet, fill, and top with flattened out bits of crust to form a lattice. It’s rustic, it’s easy, it’s deliciously flaky, and I don’t have to worry about bits of plywood clinging to my pie crust.

Plywood is the new granite in the counter top world, don’t ya know?

Oh, and here’s how I make that pie…

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Deep Dish Apple Pie, Gluten-Free and Honey-Sweetened

Crust

  • 2 cups flour (1/2 cup oat, 1/2 cup millet, and 1 cup potato starch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 sticks butter or 1 cup cold lard or a mixture of the two
  • 1/4-1/2 cup cold water

Filling

  • 6-8 medium baking apples, sliced (usually granny smith)
  • 1/2 cup honey (I actually usually use a little less)
  • 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons potato or corn starch
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt with a fork. Cut the cold butter (or lard) into the flour with  a pastry cutter or your hands. (I usually start with the former and end with the latter.)
  2. Now add the water a little bit at a time, starting with 1/4 cup. Mix it in. If it’s still dry and crumbly at all, add the rest of the water. This crust is not going to feel just like a wheat flour crust when all is said and done, so no freaking out.
  3. Once you’ve gotten the dough to completely stick together, knead a few times to form a large ball, wrap and refrigerate. Or, in our case, leave it in a plate-covered bowl next to the draftiest window overnight until you’re ready to make pie in the morning. Allowing it to sit helps hydrate all of the flours.
  4. Four or more hours later, prepare to make pie. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. If your crust is really cold, let it sit out a bit before you get started. Get your 10″ cast iron skillet out and make sure it’s clean and seasoned well. Take 70% of your dough ball and start smooshing it into your cast iron skillet. Yes, smooshing is the correct term. Do your best to evenly distribute the dough, which will still be rather sticky. No freaking out.
  5. Once you have smooshed the dough into the skillet and up the sides ~3/4 of the way, just check to make sure there are no super deep dough corners. Take the other 30% of your dough and set it aside.
  6. Start slicing your apples thinly into the same bowl you prepared and rested your dough in. Add the cinnamon, honey, and starch or flour, and mix well with a wooden spoon or your hands. Dump this into the bottom portion of the pie crust.
  7. Dust a dinner plate with GF flour of your choice. Divide your dough into six pieces. Take each piece and roll it into a “snake” and then pat it out on your plate until you have a roughly formed 1.5 inch wide strip of dough that will fit your pan. Place that strip down the middle of the pan. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough, patting them into the correct length for their position in the pan.
  8. Weave the lattices over and under as needed. Then crimp the edges together and make sure the overlapping dough is sticking together well.
  9. Now throw that pie into the oven for about 45 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and the filling looks done.
  10. Remove and allow to cool for a couple of hours to set up before slicing. Serve.
 
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