Friday, January 18, 2008

Candle Making and Artisan Bread

My family has really been getting into learning how to do things lately. From cheese making to candle making to home made bread. Didn't get any pictures of the cheese but it was pretty good. The candles, they made with bees wax. It wasn't from our bees, they had to buy it because our bees have not been successful the past two years. Our bees from 2007 might have done well but we had a bear tear into them and they never recovered. It was too late in the season.

Well, this post isn't about bees anyway it's about learning to make things for ourselves. It's pretty cool really, to see something like candles transform before your very eyes.

This way of making candles is a long slow process, but it works. The kids have known how to do this for a long time now since they did it while they were in the 4-H when we first moved here.

However this is the first time they have used bees wax for anything. I really like the idea of using it because if we ever get good at raising bees then we'll always have wax.

It's fun when they actually start taking shape after all that dipping. It takes longer with real hot wax but it makes for a nice looking finish. Cooler wax seems to go on thicker with each dip though. I think most people know how to do this. You just take the wicks and dip them in hot wax, let them cool and do that over and over until you wind up with a candle.
These are the finished products hanging up and ready for use. In the below picture you can see one of them in action. They are a nice burning candle with no mess whatsoever.

Shalea our oldest has been making bread for a while now. She's been making these kind in the below picture. The only problem is that we go through it pretty fast especially when it's fresh out of the oven. Nothing like hot buttered bread right out of the oven. Hmm good!

Lately she's been thinking of getting into artisan bread making and I'm sure it would make a nice little enterprise to add to our farm produce. In fact I believe it could easily become a center piece business for her.
Here are some more artistic types of bread she's learning to make. In fact earlier she made these loaves for tonight's meal.
I've been doing research about wood fired artisan bread ovens in hopes that in the not too distant future I can build one. I've found some plans available online and it doesn't look too complicated though like everything it looks to be fairly labor intensive.

Speaking of labor intensive there is another thing we'd have to deal with if Shalea is going to do this on any large scale and that would be some mechanical means to knead the dough. She hand kneads it now which gives her a pretty good work out. Doing alot of bread would wear a person out I think.

Here in this picture we are about to sit down to this fine meal. Salad, corn, home grown carrots, farm raised chicken and home made bread. We aren't rich by worldly standards but, we eat like kings!

It is a satisfying thing to learn how to do something for yourself in this day and age when almost everything can be bought in a store. People make things in factories but usually all they have to do is push a button. Or they only do one or two things on an assembly line. But hand crafted one of a kind pieces of work are hard to find these days. And you sure can tell the difference too. That is, between something that came off an assembly line and something that is a unique one of a kind. Something that is as unique as the individual who made it, with their own two hands and the intellect and skill that God gave them.

Until Next Time

Sunday, January 13, 2008


As the ten year anniversary of us moving to our place in the North Woods gets closer I’ve been
reminiscing about our first summer living here. It was kind of like one of those endless summers like when you’re a kid. When you’re young it seems as if each summer is an eternity. At least that’s how it seemed for me as I was growing up.

We pulled in with our Jeep Cherokee and little utility trailer packed full. It was like being on vacation and never going back. One of the first things we did was to put up our green house. That’s when I learned that just about every place you dig you’ll find a rock. Anywhere from the size of a fist to the size of a bowling ball. To put up the hoops we were supposed to simply drive a pipe into the ground in which you would insert one end of the hoop. Not such an easy proposition when every time there is a rock waiting underneath some place. So I dug each hole with a post hole digger for every pipe. Nothing like digging holes in a soil to really find out what you’re dealing with.

We have a nice thick top soil here that is well drained. Kind of a sandy loam. Below that is pure sand that goes down forever it would seem. Well at least down to what everyone calls the “granite shelf‘. Around our home area the granite can be found at 20 feet. But, it varies depending on where you are, around here. Our neighbors down the road, less than a quarter mile away, find the rock at just 5 or 6 feet we are told. The reason we think it’s 20 feet down here, is because that’s how far we drove a well point until it wouldn’t go down anymore. We hit something very hard. Even bending the point we are pretty sure.

I really can’t quite put into words what it was like that first summer. I didn’t have a job, no boss to be accountable to. We didn’t set an alarm clock, just got up whenever our bodies said we’d had enough sleep. It was a little scary but totally amazing all at the same time. It was amazing to have that kind of freedom. But, the scary thing was I knew we couldn’t go on like that indefinitely. At some point I was going to have to earn a living. But, I’d try to put that off someplace in the back of my mind and just bask in the beauty of the moment. To just live in the hear and now and not worry about the future.

Anyone who knows our story knows, we did quite a bit that first year in developing our little homestead. We tried to do a lot with as little financial input as possible. I learned how to make animal pens with salvaged wood that we scrounged from a local snowmobile shop. The wood came from shipping crates which the snow machines were shipped in. The dealership just tossed them out next to the trash and they were free to anyone who wanted them. See, I’ve always been a bit of a garbage picker. Those crates were put together with those flat metal cleat type things that are used in the construction of prefab roof trusses. I’d pry them off and reuse them. Taking them off would bend them but, I could usually straiten them up well enough for building pens and gates.

Because we home schooled the kids we made good use of the libraries closest to us. We’d go back and forth between Eagle River and Rhinelander. The folks at the Rhinelander library were very friendly to home schooling much to our delight. They even gave extra time for the books checked out by the home schooled kids. We were thankful for the little things the Lord would provide for us. Like being able to keep the books longer but, also one time when we went to the library and they happened to be having a open house in honor of the new Director, in which a full buffet was offered to everyone. A free meal and fully prepared. What a nice surprise that was. We felt like it was a gift from God and helped us to have the confidence to know that we would be just fine in our new place. We never went hungry, not one time in those lean years.

Sometimes a person should just sit back and take stock of all the times the Lord has provided. To be grateful for the little things. For myself, I wonder how I could ever have doubts. To see God come through like he has in the past, how could I ever doubt in His grace for the future. Sometimes I remind myself of the children of Israel when they wondered in the wilderness. They had the cloud by day and the fire by night and still it didn’t take much for them to tremble and fear over some unforeseen calamity. Sometimes I’m no different than they were way back then.
As our ten year anniversary continues to get closer I’m sure I’m going to keep feeling nostalgic about when we came here. Seems hard to believe it’s been that long. Our kids are grown up adults now, for crying out loud. Well, our youngest is 16 but, the oldest two are adults. Our daughter Brianna was almost married last year but, the Lord had other plans and that fell through. So we bide our time with our kids, not taking for granted the special bond we share, knowing that one day they’ll all have spouses and things will change. After all nothing stays the same. There is a time for everything under the sun.

Until Next Time

Another NAIS Story By Henry Lamb

The National Animal Identification System is still on the fast track. Read this WorldNetDaily article for an update.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Fun Spoof About Homeschool

A Homeschool Family
By Tim Hawkins

Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Years Blessings

We have a new niece Tegan, who was born a couple days after Christmas to my brother-in-law Brian and his wife Shauna. They made a surprise visit Friday morning driving 300 miles with their new born baby. They couldn't wait to share with everyone their new little bundle of joy. She's a beautiful baby. She's perfect in every way.

As mentioned in the last post, we're staying in our log cabin and below are a couple pretty winter pictures taken from up there. The top one is taken from one of the downstairs windows. The second picture is from the driveway. It is a blessing to live in such a wonderful place. Winter is a special time here. In some ways winter makes things harder but, the beauty and serenity more than makes up for it, however.

This is a great time of year for making plans for the next season. Though right now we're feeling a little overwhelmed by all the things we are committing to do this year. The list of people who want chickens and produce continues to grow and we are now to nearly 20 families who have responded to the letter that we sent out to our garbage customers.

I think we can conclude that the Lord is opening up these new opportunities for us at just the right time. In retrospect I can see that the way our lives have gone here has been in preparation for things to come. For one thing, learning to deal with all the people that we serve in the trash business will go a long way in knowing how to relate to all the upcoming farm customers. It has kind of broke us in to dealing with people. But more than anything, it has taught us to build relationships.
The other day I received another nice little blessing that I took as coming right from the Lord. It came at a time when I could really use some confirmation that the Lord is leading us in what we are trying to accomplish here.
Out of the blue, a garbage customer called me up and asked me if he could give me a little tractor that he was trying to find a home for. Many times people give me things that are fixer- uppers, to say the least. I mean they are nice bonuses, but usually require some TLC to get them going. But this one wasn't any ordinary freebie. It was a newer 210 John Deere rider with a snowblower. Even has tire chains on it. And the biggest thing is that it works perfectly fine. There's not a thing wrong with it. Whoa!!! I mean, I'm like a kid with a new toy.
It was dark when my dad and I went over to pick it up so I couldn't really see just how nice it was. Once we got it home I fired it up to drive it off the trailer and found that even the lights work. I didn't waste any time trying it out and went around opening up walkways and moving some snow that I would ordinarily use a shovel on. Worked like a charm.

I used it again yesterday and had more fun than I have in a long time. I was having so much fun I ran it out of gas. So I told Kelli, as I kind of puffed up my chest and stuck my chin out, "Kell, I'm going to the gas station to go get some gas for the John- Deere". Seems a little silly but I'm really getting a kick out of it. Plus I feel quite grateful to the Lord and the fellow who gave it to us. The man said that it was given to him and that he had gotten himself a four wheeler with a plow on it so he didn't need it anymore. Passing on the blessing.
The way I see it, is that we will probably be able to use it around here this summer for various gardening tasks. Plus a number of years ago our cousin Jerry had given us an older John Deere with a tiller on it that had belonged to his dad. Kind of a family heirloom I suppose. So now we ought to be more than well-armed with garden tractors.
As I write, we are experiencing a January thaw. It got to nearly 40 degrees and it's foggy. Supposed to be warm tomorrow too, with rain. We never know what we're going to get in the North Woods as far as weather goes. This time of year our coat rack is loaded up with everything from light jackets to heavy winter coats and scarves. I used a light jacket today. Actually as soon as I get this posted I'm heading back out taking advantage of the mild temps to get some things done I might otherwise have put off. The mild weather almost gives you the bug to start working in the garden. The walkways have melted off and green, green grass is showing through. Like I said we never know what we're going to get.
Until Next Time