Sunday, February 26, 2012


It was such a beautiful day today that we spent some time relaxing outside and letting the girls practice riding on their bikes.  As we watched them struggle with balance, sometimes getting it right and other times needing a little assistance it was interesting to think about how we all struggle with "balance".

As a child we learn balance as we learn to walk, then ride a bike; as an adult we have to learn to balance much more.  We need to balance our budget, balance our work and family time, balance our diet, and of course learn to balance our own needs with the needs of our family. Once the girls learn how to balance and ride a bike they will never forget and even though they may go for a time between rides they will never have to go through the complete learning stages again. Sometimes we get it right and things run smoothly and we are at peace, other times we struggle and may fear or be anxious, but hopefully through each struggle we learn and never forget the lessons life gives us so that we can be in balance and enjoy peace in our lives.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Projects : Here & There

As we worked "here" around the house and property today, Cameron was up at Lynda's parents working "there" on projects with them.  Lynda's dad sent us an e-mail with a few pictures of Cameron working on a new planting area in their backyard.

Donut peach in bloom.
Here:  The projects included work on the garden areas, fabricating a drip pan & installing a water detector alarm behind the refrigerator (never again do we want an undetected slow leak), and fabricating and installing a gate from the pool area to the chicken coop area.

Alpha rooster.

New water leak alarm.
Daddy's little helper.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Over the Freeways & through LA - To Grandpa & Baba's we go!

No over the river and through the woods for us to travel to Lynda's parents house.  We live south of Los Angeles and they live north of Los Angeles, so it is a trek over the freeways and through the outskirts of LA to get there and back.

Today we went for a quick visit to pick up some old pool equipment and table saw that Lynda's dad was no longer using and gave to us.  The pumps, filter, heater, and pool equipment will most likely be used in our tilapia project. Cameron stayed behind to help with some other projects that they have going on around their property.

Removing old pool/spa equipment.
Helping move a radial arm saw.

Table saw, pool equipment, and other
goodies in the haul!

The girls had the chance to play with some bubbles and try out their new sunglasses that Baba and Grandpa brought for them.

Hannah also read one of her "Amelia Bedelia" books to Baba and Lauren.

 Some pictures of the children with their grandparents:

The girls getting to take home some old Disney videos.  Yes, we still have working VHS units in our house!  : )

Looking at Baba's Noah's ark collection.

Although we had to contend with the evening rush hour which extended our drive time back home, we were blessed with a beautiful sunset!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Critter Wars

As we take more and more territory for landscape planting and gardens, we invariably invite wild life of all sorts. Some desired others not so much.

 The trick then becomes how to keep them out of the areas I don't want them, while coexhisting in as peaceful a means as possible.  Rabbits I can fence out for the most part. Squirrels are far more capable of accessing areas and last year we had so many we had to bait to control.  Gophers are the bain of my garden.  A nifty little gadget called the "black hole" has spelled doom for many on our property and truly has been the only thing to really work.

Field mice and pack rats are a real pain. Traps and encouraging good snakes are my best defence. We have some owls, hawks and roadrunners that are welcome too for their rodent control. The goal is that my family is able to enjoy the fruit of our labors in the garden.  These critters are incredibly destructive and I feel like Mr. McGregor from Beatrix Potter's story of Peter Rabbit, going after the
"wee beasties".

The larger creatures that would be more of a threat to family and animals, like coyotes have been kept more at a distance because of fencing. We used to have them wander around the property when we first moved here, and would regularly hear them howling to each other at night. The only benefit of their being around was that they definately kept the smaller creatures numbers lower.  So it comes down to a creative balancing act so that they don't overrun us and steal or destroy our crops.
Ah the joys of a homesteading life!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lessons from a Garden

From previous posts you can see we've been working on our new garden, our greenhouse and trying to enhance the orchard we already have.  In addition to the fruit and vegetables we hope to harvest, time in the garden is good for more.  Excercise, reconnecting with the earth and how it functions. The joys and frustrations that come from the planning, preparation, hard work, planting, watering, weeding, etc....

I've always loved that I have time to think in the garden. Currently it's a good distraction from the routine of daily life and homeschooling.  My thoughts took me to a comparison of gardening and my family.  You make plans for what it will be like and how it will produce. What conditions you need to provide for the optimal results, but the reality is much is out of your direct control.  Is the seed viable? Will weather enhance or damage the results? What soil additions need to be added to help, or fertilizers?  Okay so what does this have to do with anything other than a garden?

A little over a year ago we travelled to China again to bring home, then 6 year old Lauren.  She's very tiny for her age, only the size of a 3 year old.  Life hasn't been easy in the area of health.  She struggled to survive in the beginning and had lots of  hospitalizations to keep her here.  During the time we were adopting she was hospitalized twice with bladder and kidney issues.  We prayed daily as a family for God's touch to heal and this He has done, as she has been with us for over a year without a single health issue other than trying to put weight on her malnourished body.

I was struck with the journey of all of our children's arrival in our lives, but since her's is the most recent I have been thinking of this alot.  How a seed was planted in our minds and heart as Hannah and I watched a program about orphan's.  We'd seen several before, but this time it really struck a cord that maybe we needed to do something about it.  Then Hannah, who had always been fiercely possessive of Kevin's attention, came to me and said "I think I might be ready to share daddy with another girl".  We watered this seed with prayer for confirmation, clarity and direction. At every turn we recieved affirmation. So we proceeded. This meant there was another child somewhere in the world that was supposed to be in our family.  China stood out formost as the location, a girl younger than Hannah was all confirmed as we began our paperwork.  Then our process seemed to take a turn, we knew the child would be on the waiting list of special needs or older children, but the leads we began getting were for very sick kids with serious heart issues.  Kevin particularly struggled with one we kept feeling drawn to. The idea of adopting and loving a child we might not have for long really challenged his ability to proceed.  The Lord kept whispering "do you trust Me?".  When we came to the decision to let go and proceed in this direction, it was as our initial paperwork had been recieved and okayed by China and we were at a point of being able to commit.  We filed paperwork with regard to the young girl whose heart troubles had been a concern to us, only to recieve word back that another family had filed to adopt her.  We were overjoyed for her, but couldn't understand the drama of the process we'd experienced over the past few weeks.  At this point Kevin had returned to a blog of a woman who advocated for special needs children. He had come across the site in the process of seeking information about what we might be dealing with healthwise from the first little girl.  It was on this site that we first saw Lauren's picture.  Her health issues that were lifelong and could potentially continue throughout her life, were one's we might not have considered without having processed our ability to handle health problems from the original child we thought we were to adopt.
The strange thing was Lauren was not showing up on the very long list of waiting children provided by China, and our agency warned us not to expect much when they made inquiries from their Beijing office.  They were shocked to find that not only was she available, but she had been part of programs designed to focus on older kids who needed families, and yet her file had somehow fallen off the available list and so she was languishing in an adoption nowhere land. We prayed for clarity and kept getting confirmation that this was the one.  We filed and our paperwork was linked with Lauren as "our child".   So the watering, weeding and nurturing process of our family continued.

In January of 2011, Lauren joined us as her forever family.  The seed of adoption had produced for us a little flower who needs a lot of care and attention.  With all the struggles of her early life I have had to fight the feelings of having brought a weed into our midst, life is a challenge when adopting a hurt child.  Still, we saw with Amber's life the example of what nurture, care and prayer can produce and so I hold fast to the task of encouraging Lauren's ability to overcome the emotional hurts that cause her to strike out and sabotage the very relationships she desperately wants, but doesn't know how to respond to.  I used the example of the garden throughout this, because as I've been gardening I realize I put a lot of time and energy into the process with hopes and expectations of what my results might be, but understand that the outcome isn't assured.  It can be the same for us as parents. We pour in our best with all our love, hopes and desires, then have to trust God to complete the process and bring out the best results for us and our children.  He's been saying the same to me lately as He spoke to Kevin early on "do you trust Me?"  Since He is the original gardener, I'm going to listen to how to nurture this one to it's best potential for a productive, happy life.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Plants and Projects

Just some photos to update what is happening in the new garden and projects around the house.

Things are sprouting and growing well already in the new garden area between the house and the barn. Lynda also has some more seedlings that she has started in our sun room and will be transplanting them soon. Kevin & Cameron are signed up for a class in San Diego next month on raising Tilapia using aquaponics - we have the basic hydroponics system running in the greenhouse, but have been planning from the start to switch to aquaponics and raise fish as soon as we got some experience and training.

The chickens are doing great, we got 7 eggs today and average about 4 each day so we have not had to buy eggs for some time and are starting to give them to Amber and Eddie!

Here's Hannah (who loves to work outside) picking olive leaves from the cut branches.  We dry and grind the leaves for making tea. Olive leaf tea is good for strengthening the immune system and to help alleviate cold symptoms.

Kevin and Cameron have started laying the new flooring in the kitchen.  They should be done this weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kevin's Birthday!

Today was Kevin's birthday. We enjoyed a cold-rainy day relaxing indoors and watched the Penguins of Madagascar and then Casablanca after dinner. Tomorrow Kevin gets to celebrate again as Amber & Eddie will be here for dinner and their chance to celebrate with us.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rainy Day and Pumpkin Bread

Making the most of a rainy day by baking more pumpkin bread.  After our trip to Bates Nut Farm back in October we had 5 large pumpkins that over the months I have cooked and pureed.  I have bags of the stuff frozen so we will have plenty for many more loaves of bread in the future.  I finally cooked and pureed the last of the pumkins this week and with todays overcast skies it's perfect baking weather!!
I found this recipe for pumpkin bread at  It makes a delicious, moist pumpkin bread.
Since my family likes things really flavorful I double the measurements of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger to really make this bread a treat that they all love.

Here's the recipe as found online:


2 cups pumkin puree or one 15 oz. can
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsps. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Grease and flour three  7 X 3 inch loaf pans.
In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, oil, eggs, water and sugar until well blended. In a seperate bowl whisk together all dry ingredients.  Stir the dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture until well blended.  Pour into prepared pans.  Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.