"Commentary from the Countryside"
Thoughts on current events,
history, homesteading, preparedness, real food, and anything else I find interesting, from a cranky, middle-aged woman's common-sense perspective.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reformation Day!

It was a time late in the Middle Ages, when lords lived in castles and serfs toiled in the fields.  The Catholic Church was as powerful or more powerful than many kings, holding sway over lord and serf alike.
Unfortunately, men who lived for themselves rather than for serving others were in control of the church, and the Gospel was overshadowed by the Law.  People were taught they could earn salvation by giving money to the church, performing pilgrimages, penances, and good works.

One man who earnestly sought to earn his salvation was a young German monk by the name of Martin Luther.  He followed, indeed went beyond every edict of his monastic order, punishing himself physically and mentally until he gave up in despair.  He felt utterly broken and destroyed when he realized that no matter how hard, how desperately he tried, he could never be righteous enough to please God and "earn" salvation.  He moved on from the monastery, becoming a professor at the University of Erfurt where he spent much time studying the Bible.

His studies took him deep into the Bible, where, guided by the Holy Spirit, he came to a new understanding.  He realized that salvation is not something that can be "earned".  It is a gift, freely given.  Jesus died to pay the price for everyone, and all are covered by His righteousness.

Luther also realized that the Catholic Church was continuing down the wrong road, and indeed had been making a great deal of money selling what the called "indulgences".  A person could go to a parish priest and buy a scrap of parchment that said his sins would not count.  One could see how the idea was attractive - want to go out and get drunk and rob someone?  Simply buy this piece of paper ahead of time and no problem!  No guilt!

The practice of selling indulgences was just one of the church practices that didn't sit right with Luther, and he tried to work from within to make the needed changes.  Finally, on October 31st, 1517, he wrote the Ninety-five Theses, and nailed them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg.  A simple act, a fairly common act of the time when men wished to set up a meeting to debate issues; yet with far-reaching consequences that Luther could not have foreseen.

The Protestant Reformation is a fascinating historical study, but I won't take your time with it here.  Suffice it to say that God used Luther to bring Law and Gospel, Word and Sacrament back to the people, and to this day we celebrate Reformation Day.

Meanwhile, back on the homestead, we've survived the high winds on the edge of Hurricane Sandy with some minor power outages.  So sad to see all the destruction on the coast!  Hope the area recovers quickly.  I've been busy lately, putting up over four dozen quarts of potatoes, a few dozen jars of green tomato relish and hot pepper jam, two dozen pints of carrots, and putting a bushel of apples through the dehydrator.  I'm so pleased to have the carrots!  The first sowing didn't come up this Spring, so I replanted them but thought the entire crop lost to the weed epidemic I had this year.  What a pleasant surprise to find a really nice crop peeking out from behind the tomato plants.

They look even nicer put up in a jar!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Crossing the Line

I'm at a loss. Has it truly come to this? A country founded through a fierce desire for independence, a land of freedom won by sacrifice and commitment, a home where everyone can worship God in their own way, protected and defended by the brave and honorable for over two hundred years, is now fallen so low that the Commander in Chief tells young women that voting for him is like losing your virginity to a great guy.

Yes, it's a real campaign ad.

There's just so much that is so sick and so wrong with this ad that I can hardly express my horror and disgust. I already knew that the current pretender in the White House was an arrogant, clueless man, but now it's clear he's nothing more than a pervert.

Instead of protecting our borders, he's using the Health and Human Services mandates to bedevil faith based organizations.
Instead of guarding the safety and sovereignty of America and our citizens, he parties with celebrities.
Instead of being a leader, he bows to foreign dictators and apologizes for America's existence.

Only a country falling prey to to completely selfish, evil thoughts and desires would be desperate enough to elect such a man to the highest office. Where is honor, faith, respect? What happened to responsibility and hard work?

We're drowning in debt, under attack here and abroad by terrorists, our borders are over-run by aliens, and what do we get? Bread and circuses. Though now it's in the form of cell phones and birth control.

Sadly, it seems too many of our citizens don't care what happens, so long as they get their freebies from the government, so long as they can have sex with whoever and whatever they want and then proudly parade it in public , so long as they can demand their “rights”. And they continue to elect liberal politicians who have no moral compass, who will happily spend us into oblivion to buy votes and maintain their cushy position and benefits while completely failing to do their jobs.

A desperate call for help from an American ambassador in the Middle East? Nope, sorry, have to run to Vegas to schmooze at a fundraiser.
A Christian church run by people who practice what they preach? Oh, can't have that – use government mandates to force them to pay for abortions, and sue them if they won't perform a wedding ceremony for homosexuals.
A sheriff in Arizona actually arresting illegals and sending them back over the border? Court the “latino” vote by persecuting and threatening him.
Time for a vacation? Spend millions of taxpayer dollars to send the wife and kids off to Europe.

Am I the only one who is outraged and heartbroken by it all? God help us! We continue to throw His blessings away in favor of darkness and evil. How long will He continue to show us grace and mercy before He allows our own choices to destroy our country?

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray , and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2nd Chronicles 7:14

Monday, October 22, 2012

"...run around the house three times."

When I was little, and complained of not feeling well, my Mom's first response was always "go outside and run around the house three times".  While at first glance that may seem a trifle harsh, especially in this politically correct age, there was a gem of wisdom there.  If I was truly sick, I would simply look up at her with glassy eyes and wipe my runny nose on my sleeve, and before I knew it I was dosed with a combination of honey, whiskey, and lemon juice and propped up with pillows on the sofa.  If I was just feeling sort of punky and she chased me outside, I would run around in the fresh air and sunshine and usually feel better right away.

Scientists today have all sorts of names for this phenomenon, speaking of endorphins, or getting vitamins from the sun, and so it may be, but really I think it's more a matter of attitude and a sort of toughness.  Fighting through feeling sluggish and out of sorts to get muscles moving is an accomplishment that can make all the difference.  To this day it's still her stock answer, and one I use on my own daughter.  We even use the phrase on each other as a way of motivating ourselves to go do something fun when we're so tempted to just sit on the deck in the comfy chairs.

This evening was another such time.  After spending the weekend putting up fifty pounds of potatoes, canning twenty jars of green tomato relish and another fifteen of hot pepper jam, then rushing through endless files at work, I really wanted nothing more than my recliner.  Mom has a pretty stressful, lousy sort of job too, and was ready to just chill.  But the air was warm, the leaves were gorgeous, and the lake was calling.  We just HAD to get out there in the kayaks!  I mean, how many chances will we have yet before the water gets hard?  So instead of sitting on the deck, we pushed each other to hauled out the 'yaks and trek out to the water. 

Ahhhh, how worth it!  The water was a dark, moody gray, choppy with small waves but with also with flat, smooth areas mysteriously reflecting the cloudy sky.  I could feel the stress just fall away as I dug and pulled, dug and pulled, hands tight on the paddle, shoulders straining, heart pumping.  The wonderful scent of burning leaves drifted out to us as we paralleled the shore, the water gently slapping against our boats.  A dozen deer, a mixture of yearlings and does, barely paused their browsing to watch us float by.  Turkeys moved among the deer, occasionally chortling and cooing to each other, and a couple of mischievous squirrels chittered loudly as they chased each other in circles up and down the trunk of a giant oak.  The deer would waggle their ears at the squirrels, as if to say "quit making so much noise".  Sometimes we paddled and chatted, sometimes we simply sat and drifted, enjoying the peace, the scenery, and each others company.  It wasn't until we heard rumbles of thunder in the distance that we headed in for supper.

By the time I left, we were both feeling better, more relaxed, and quietly energized.  I'm so blessed to have such a wise Mom, who has taught me well and been a wonderful example; and it's so good that we live where we can grab a kayak and put it in the water any time we want.  Having the Great Lakes to play in is truly great!

So remember the next time you're feeling sort of down and out of sorts, go outside and run around the house three times. (Or paddle a boat, ski down a hill, maybe even just go for a walk.) You'll be better for it!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

October Surprise! (Or God is Good!)

Yes, I know that "October Surprise" has bad connotations, being a political ploy of politicians looking to be elected in November.  But here it was something rare and beautiful.  It was well after dark when I got home Monday, and once the truck lights shut off I thought what I was seeing was merely the neighbor's enormous combine shining lights up through the dust while harvesting beans.  Then I looked closer...it was actually the aurora borealis!  This makes about the fourth or fifth time I've been able to see them in the last three decades, so it's a rare treat.  Despite the freezing temperatures, I sat on my patio swing for over an hour, enjoying the show. They don't look like the vibrant, sparkling lights one sees on television shows about Alaska; here they are understated and subtle. I've seen some northern lights show pink and red before, but Monday's were white, blue and green, pale pastels flowing over the horizon in gentle waves.  Most of the time I could still see the stars through the gossamer veils, while some waves seemed to drift closer and coalesce, obscuring the stars. One little cloud of light seemed almost to perch on my roof top, perhaps caught for a moment on the eaves, until it could pull free and continue on it's way.  What a peaceful interlude, gently rocking in my patio swing, nestled deep in my jacket, my head resting back on the cushion, quietly overcome by the awesome spectacle of the night sky.   It was a perfect combination of clear air, shimmering northern lights, and brilliant stars.  I do wish folks would turn off the yard lights, street lights, and advertising lights, and take time to slow down and look up.  They may be astonished at what they're missing - a beautiful show, and no political ads!!

We recently took a family trip, and it was a real adventure for us to drive clear across two states, and a lot of fun to explore and see new places.  By the time we got back, we had put over a thousand miles on the van in just three days, and been through big cities, stretches of farm land, across major rivers, through valleys, and over hills. 

The very next day, that same van stranded me in the parking lot at work.  God is so good!!  When I thought about all the places we had just been, so far away from home, all I could do was sit there with the hood up and the door open, laughing.  My co-workers thought it a strange reaction to a broken down vehicle, but I was looking at the bigger picture.  Getting my brother to rescue me from work was a trivial inconvenience, compared to what could have been.  It makes me wonder, how many times does God take what Satan intended as a major, heart-breaking hurt, and instead allow it only as an inconvenience?  How often are we protected by His grace, without even realizing it?

Our October weather has been pretending it's November, with hard freezes and drizzly days.  It seems no Indian summer for us this year - and me still with dozens of chores to do before the homestead is ready for winter.  We'll be making the green tomatoes into relish and pickles, scrounging for firewood, cutting the grass one more time, and getting the screens out of the windows, among other projects.  I certainly wish there was a way to make a full time income, and yet be home with time to get everything done!  Maybe I'll have to look into cloning...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Canning beans

I finally got some beans out of my garden, the lovely "Dragontongue" beans that are yellow and purple and have no strings.  Last summer was the first time I grew these beans, and they quickly became a favorite due to their meaty heft and good texture that doesn't get woody when the beans get big.  I didn't have quite enough beans to make it worthwhile to get out the canner so I bought some nice green beans from my Amish neighbors and set to work. 

I much prefer "frenched" beans to cut beans, so after thoroughly washing the beans and cutting off the ends, I run them all through the frencher.  I have this giant colander that I feed the beans into from the frencher, making it easier to rinse off all the bits of seeds.

(Sometimes the best things can happen simply from being in the right place at the right time.  I was given this colander and quite a few other kitchen gadgets just because I was helping out a woman who was downsizing her home prior to moving.  Fun!)

After the beans are all frenched and rinsed, I stuff the jars.  I pack them in pretty tightly but make sure to leave a one inch headspace.  I cover the beans with hot water and use a plastic knife or wooden handle to make sure the air bubbles are all out.

Then I use a clean, damp cloth to make sure the tops of the jars are clean.

Then it's time to put the lids on, that I've had simmering in warm water to slightly soften the rubber sealant.
I love this little gadget!  Very simple, just a magnet at the end of a plastic handle, but it makes it so easy to get the lid out of the hot water without burning my fingers, or risk scratching the lid with tongs.  I tighten the rings just finger tight, and load the jars into the pressure canner.

The canner has a locking lid with flanges that fit like a tongue and groove when I twist the lid shut.
Not locked
Locked and ready to go
I follow the instructions in the canner manual for venting the steam and monitoring the heat so that the weight is happily jiggling, and process the beans (pint jars) for twenty minutes at ten pounds of pressure.  It can all be a lot of work, but to me it's worth it to have fresh, high quality beans preserved without chemicals and packed in glass instead of cans that may have liners that leach compounds into the food.  There's a wonderful sense of accomplishment, looking at a pantry shelf stocked with food I've preserved!