Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Removing the Chametz

Chametz is derived from Hebrew and refers to leavened foods that are forbidden during the Jewish holiday of Passover.  Specifically, chametz refers to leavened bread or products containing it.  The Torah explains in Exodus 12:14-15 what the Israelites were commanded to do:

Feast of Unleavened Bread

14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.

Now, we are not Jews, we're Christians, but years ago, we began to celebrate the Biblical holidays from a Christian (Messianic) perspective as we realized that all of the Biblical holidays can be rich in revelation as most of the Old Testament points to Jesus, the Messiah.

So, the night before Passover, we perform a ceremony where we remove the leaven from the house, symbolizing removing sin from our midst.  Tricia takes pieces of bread (symbolizing sin) and hides them all over the house. We turn all the lights off and I lead the family by candlelight (symbolizing the Word of God) to find the leaven (sin).

We use a feather (symbolizing the Holy Spirit) to sweep the leavened bread into a wooden spoon (symbolizing the tree of crucifixion) and then put it into a paper bag (symbolizing the grave).  We then take the paper bag full of bread and burn it.  This represents the fact that due to the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, our sins have been paid for and are remembered no more.

Sweeping the bread into the wooden spoon with a feather
We then put the bread into the paper bag with the wooden spoon.

Putting the bread into the paper bag
We go all throughout the house repeating the process until we've rid the entire house of leaven.

Found another one!
Then we take the bag of bread outside and burn it in our fire pit.

Burning the bag of leavened bread
We watch as the bread, symbolizing sin, is burned up and dealt with.

Leaven is removed and destroyed
Pretty soon there is nothing left but ashes.

Sins are dealt with - never to be remembered.
On the very next night, we celebrate the Passover from a Messianic perspective.  You can click here: The Passover to learn about how it's done and the meaning of this rich celebration.

Next Year in Jerusalem!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Observances from a Spring Walk

    Mrs. Bennet, with great civility, begged her ladyship to take some refreshment; but Lady Catherine very resolutely, and not very politely, declined eating any thing; and then, rising up, said to Elizabeth,
    "Miss Bennet, there seemed to be a prettyish kind of a little wilderness on one side of your lawn. I should be glad to take a turn in it, if you will favour me with your company."
    "Go, my dear," cried her mother, "and shew her ladyship about the different walks. I think she will be pleased with the hermitage."  - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Tricia loves books by Jane Austen and got introduced to the phrase, "take a turn" in the yard from the dialogue from Pride and Prejudice quoted above.  Taking a turn simply means to go out and take a leisurely stroll, enjoying the weather and scenery. We like to do that now.  Sometimes she'll ask, in her best English accent, if I'd like to go take a turn in the yard.  I'll always oblige the Lady.

So let's take a virtual 'turn' to see what's going on in our garden and yard.  First, many old timers will tell you that it is not Spring until the pecan trees have begun to put on leaves.  They're typically the last trees in our area to put out leaves. Well, it is officially Spring!  The pecan trees in the yard are putting out their leaves, signalling the arrival of Spring.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Spring has arrived!
Thanks to a load of composted chicken manure mixed with old wood shavings that was given to me and subsequently incorporated into the raised bed where I planted our potatoes almost a month ago, we have the most healthy potato crop we have ever had.  Just look at them grow!  Now, we don't want to count our chickens before they hatch.  With potatoes, it's what's under the ground that counts, not what's on top. But it certainly looks like a great start.

Here's an up close photo of a potato plant about to bloom.  When the potato plant blooms, it is a signal that tubers are forming.
Potatoes about to flower
The sugar snap peas are extending their tendrils and attaching themselves to the cattle panel that I have for them to grow on.  I did see one flower already which is good news.  Sugar snap peas do best in cooler weather, so they need to produce quickly as South Louisiana is not known for having a lengthy Spring.

Sugar Snap pea tendrils
This photo highlights the tendril, reaching out looking for the next thing on which to grab as it climbs upward.

Reaching out for something to hold onto
This is a weed that grows in the garden right next to our garlic chives.  I looked it up on the Internet and learned that it is called the Oxalis or Pink Flowering Shamrock or wood sorrel.  Although a "weed," it is pretty in the garden and this weed won't get pulled up.

Something pretty that came up on its own
As we move out of the garden and around the yard on the east side, you can see that the little peaches are already forming and have peach fuzz on them.  I hope this fella ends up in a warm cobbler with homemade ice cream on top!

Peach fuzz
Moving along, we come to the azaleas whose fuschia blooms light up the neighborhood.  This particular bush was at my grandmother's house.  We transplanted it in our yard and it seems to be very happy in its new location 30 miles south of Kinder.  If you look closely, you can see the barn and one of the cows in the background.

How can one be depressed when standing next to this bush?  It is so bright and happy and cheerful that you'd have to really try hard to be melancholy in front of this plant.

Pretty in Pink
This is probably a good place to end our walk as the sun goes down and the setting sun sends out its last rays of light through the red leaves that the Japanese Maple is putting out.

Filtered light through the Japanese Maple
You don't have to be a Romantic or a fan of Jane Austen to enjoy "taking a turn" about the yard.  Anyone who appreciates just slowing down the pace and relishing the Great Outdoors and appreciating the sights, sounds, and smells of nature that we all overlook from time to time can do it.  Take hold of the opportunity that awaits you right outside your back door.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A New Home for Maggie Moo

As discussed in previous posts, our little 3 acre pasture is just not big enough to carry the amount of animals we have grazing on it now.  Three cows in milk require a lot of grass to keep the 'milk machines' producing. We got a call from a farmer right down the road that had a mama cow that died and needed a nurse cow to provide milk for the little calf.  Our Magnolia (Maggie) was a good fit for him.

Tricia texted me at work and told me that the farmer was coming to pick her up right after noon.  I wasn't even going to be able to tell her goodbye.  I could tell that Tricia was a little sad about selling Maggie.  She has been a real good cow for us.  She gave us a nice heifer in Lili, that we sold last week, and she was a good show cow that gave Russ lots of ribbons, buckles and honors.  Tricia walked out to the pasture to get Maggie.  Maggie looked up from her grazing.  You can tell how they've got the green grass clipped down pretty short.

Hey Maggie
But Maggie is all about eating.  Tricia's distraction was only momentary and she was back with her head down, ripping out grass with her strong tongue.

Maggie loves grass
She decided to give Amy one last drink of milk off of Maggie.  Amy is Rosie's little heifer, but Maggie has been providing milk to her so that we can milk Daisy and Rosie twice a day.  Amy is five and a half months old, so she's ready to be weaned. Enjoy your last milk Amy!  Once Maggie is gone, we'll likely hear lots of moo-ing from Amy.  Although grass and hay is good to a cow, that fresh, delicious milk is hard to beat. Weaning can be a hard process for the calf, us, and our neighbors!

Amy's last milk.
As much as you try not to get attached to animals that you know you might sell one day, it is hard to say goodbye when the time comes to sell them.  Our cows become like part of the family to us .  They're gentle and have provided us with lots of milk to drink and make things like butter, cream, ice cream, and yogurt with.

Tricia loaded her up into the trailer and told her that she was a pretty girl and that we were going to miss her.

You're gonna miss me when I'm gone...
And then the farmer fired up his truck and backed out with our Maggie.

Farewell, Mags!
Things are gonna be a little different around Our Maker's Acres Family Farm without Maggie.  She's been chewing her cud on our place for 2 and a half years now.  We'll miss her, but for Daisy and Rosie, well, with Maggie gone that just means they'll have more grass to eat.  We only have one more sale in the immediate future.  Once Bully breeds Daisy and Rosie, we'll sell him.  That's one thing that differentiates farm animals from pets.  Farm animals provide food and although you get attached to them, you've got to keep in mind that one day you'll either sell them (or eat them). It's tough to say, but that's how life goes in the barnyard.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lemon Meringue Pie

Let me ask a question.  Is there anything better than a homemade pie?  Often I come in the door from work and one of my first questions is, "What's for supper?"  I'm seriously wondering what's in the pot and look forward to sitting down to a good meal with my family.  Tricia will tell me what's for supper and I'll be happy. The thing that moves my meter from happy to exuberant, though, are the following words, "Hey, I made a homemade pie for dessert!"  A big smile will cover my face and my next question will be, "What kind?" Granted, there is no wrong answer to this question as I can't say that I've ever run across a slice of pie that I didn't enjoy.

Tonight the answer was Lemon Meringue pie.  We juiced and froze a bunch on lemon juice from lemons last year into ice cube trays and have a gallon size freezer bag full of lemon juice cubes.  We can pop these cubes into any old dish that calls for lemon juice.  Tonight it happened to be used for lemon meringue pie and it was heavenly.  I took a nice picture of the pie to preserve the memory as it wouldn't sit there undisturbed for long!

Homemade lemon meringue pie
I like the way that the meringue has peaks.  It reminds me of waves on the ocean. Pies also remind me of other things.  I remember that my parents used to bring me to a Diner in LeCompte, Louisiana when I was a kid that was famous for their pies. The name of the place is Lea's Lunchroom.  Now Lea's is famous for their ham sandwiches and fried chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy, but the thing that they are really well-known for is their pies.  Wow!  When I was a boy, I remember eating there on Sunday afternoons and Mr. Lea (who looked like Colonel Sanders) would come around to everyone's table.  He would be all decked out in a white suit and he'd ask, "Did you go to Sunday School this morning?"  Nice memories and nice pies.  My wife makes a mighty fine pie, too!

Waves of deliciousness
Just check out a slice of this bad boy with the homemade crust, meringue standing at attention, and the tart lemon filling beckoning.

Any way you slice it, this pie is good!
The last ingredient in the recipe that Tricia uses says it is optional - yellow food coloring.  Since we use our pastured eggs from free range chickens to make this pie, the dark yellow yolks provide all the color that you'll need, so the food coloring never gets used

The fork view

Russ is in from college on Spring Break right now and he demolished the last slice on the pie pan tonight. Mama's boy is back home for a week, so I'm sure we'll be eating more pie this week.  No complaints here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Orange Crush

This is a photograph of the blacktop road that runs in front of our house.  There's no stripes in the middle, no paved shoulder and and the little road has its fair share of potholes.  I think the speed limit is 35, but the sign keeps getting knocked down, so I can't verify it with any certainty.  Most people still wave as they pass by if you're in the front yard.  One time our cows got out and I had several people turn into our driveway to alert me.  Friendly neighbors.  That's not to say that we don't have a problem with litterbugs and we have had our mailbox knocked down about 10 years ago by someone during a weekend of mischief.

The Road that we live on
Speaking of mischief, but way more harmless mischief that didn't involve destruction of property, the other afternoon when I drove home I was greeted to the following sight on our road:

Orange Crush
I wondered what was going on and then I looked over and saw Benjamin and his neighbor friend hiding, giggling and laughing, watching people's reactions as they drove over lots of oranges that the boys had stacked across the road.  The neighbor's satsuma trees had a bunch of satsumas that were still on the trees when the big freeze came through this year and ruined them.  So the boys pulled the remaining oranges off the trees and instead of just throwing them away, they decided to do something like what I might have done when I was their age and figured out a more creative way of disposing the oranges.

Flattened Oranges
So here's to country boys finding a "auto" mated way (sorry for the pun) to make orange juice!  Much better than sitting inside on the couch playing video games, right?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Like A Chicken on a June Bug

There is an old country saying to describe something fast or quick.  If you want to emphasize, for example, how much that Kyle likes pecan pie, you would say, "Man, if you bring a pecan pie out here, Kyle would be all over that like a chicken on a june bug!"  That means Kyle would be all over that pie very quickly.

I wonder how much truth there is to that old saying?  Hey, let's find out!  Right now there are beetles all over the place.  They come out of the ground at this time of the year and crawl all over everything.  They are primarily outside, but some find their way inside the house.  The other evening in the kitchen, Tricia screamed because one was crawling up her leg. So we have many bugs to test out our hypothesis.  Here's one right now:

A june bug or beetle
I decided to not just experiment with one bug, but with a whole handful of them.

A handful of june bugs
And here are the subjects for our experiment.  In order to see if chickens will be all over june bugs quickly, you need chickens and june bugs.  I think we have everything assembled to do this.

The chickens
Now all we need to do is throw the june bugs down on the ground and see what happens.  I think we know how this is going to go.

They're all over them pretty quickly!
Yep, we have proven that the saying is true beyond a reasonable doubt.  Chickens are indeed all over june bugs in no time at all!  FACT.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Privacy Fence

Several Sunday's ago our preacher talked about a new neighborhood going up near his home.  He stated that the first thing everyone does (sadly) is erect large privacy fences in order to block off the neighbors and that the message it sends out is, "You mind your business and I'll mind mine."  His point being that we tend to wall ourselves off and don't reach out to our neighbors and can become isolated and self-absorbed instead of being out-going and neighborly.

I understand exactly what he's saying.  We need to make sure we're interacting and involved in the culture. We need to be others focused and engaged with our neighbors.  If we sequester ourselves away and are just concerned with "our four and no more," we aren't fulfilling the Great Commission.

James 1:27

New American Standard Bible (NASB)
27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

We do like a certain amount of privacy, though, since I've been known to walk out to the garden in my robe or boxers to get cilantro or green onions for a breakfast omelet. So several years ago we erected a "living privacy fence" on the East side of our property by planting some yellow irises that grow to about 5 feet tall. In addition to having lush green foliage (that is prettier than an old brown fence), in the Springtime these irises bloom.  The blooms are spectacular and brighten the landscape.  And the irises don't block the ability for us to talk across the fence to one another or go around it for us to bring them eggs or them to bring us banana nut bread or homemade shortbread!

Top view of Yellow Iris
Here is a side view of the same yellow iris.  Ain't that pretty?

Side view of Yellow Iris
You can see that there are numerous, additional blooms that are about to burst open and beautify the area between my neighbor and I.  We'll be able to both enjoy the pretty irises and at the same time have a modicum of privacy due to the living fence.

Soon to bloom
This living privacy fence would be marvelous - except for one problem.  That would be Nellie, our Nubian goat.  As the photo below indicates, Nellie is being, well, a goat. Goats are browsers.  They like eating leaves from bushes, shrubs, trees, and privacy fences.  You can see how she's craned her neck through the hogwire and given the privacy fence a nice haircut.  You can also see at the two o'clock position in the photo that she's climbed up on top of the woodpile (that I've already re-stacked at least 3 times) and knocked it all down - again!

Goats can be a challenge.  Everything that works for cows, doesn't work for goats. We always laugh and say it's like having a toddler around.  You have to plan and put things out of reach or else you have chaos and destruction.  It is hard to stay mad at the goats though.  They are odd and curious creatures that you can't help but like.  

The iris that grows out of reach of the long-necked goat is healthy, tall, and beautiful. The iris that grows close to the fence looks like a "high & tight" clipper cut of a soldier in the military.

Business up front and Party in the back...
So, I've got "Plan B" ready to go.  I'm going to go up another 3 feet on the 2 X 4 welded wire perimeter fence on the East side, effectively stopping Nellie's iris eating. That little project will have to wait until I get the rest of the garden in though.  I've got yellow squash, zucchini squash, several types of cucumbers, loofah gourd, birdhouse gourd, and okra seedlings that I need to transplant and I also need to plant my sweet corn and sunflowers.  Those are higher on my priority list since all of those are EDIBLE, while the irises are not (to me at least - Nellie would beg to differ!)
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