Feisty Flounder (THM-FP, Low Carb, GF)

Here’s a tasty, unique way to get more fish in your diet! I used frozen wild caught flounder filets at Aldi. There were six filets in the bag, so I cooked them all. If you can’t find flounder, use any white, low-fat, fish. (Tilapia would work.)

So basically, I was craving this flavor for some reason. I followed my taste instincts and whipped up this sauce to go on the fish!

Ingredients:

6 filets wild caught flounder (or any other white fish, like tilapia)

For the sauce:

1 cup 0% Greek yogurt

1 tbsp cumin seeds

2 garlic cloves

½ fresh red bell pepper

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

(Optional red pepper flakes to taste)

Parmesan cheese to top the sauce

Preheat oven to 350.

Blend the sauce up in a food processor or blender.

Place the fish on a baking dish, and pour the sauce over the filets. I reserved some sauce for dipping…because we are sauce people and it was yummy.

Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the tops of the fish.

Cook the fish for 20 minutes.

Turn on broil for about five minutes to crisp the cheese on the top, if desired.

Serve with a lovely side salad or another favorite Fuel Pull side!

Bonus: You can also use this sauce to top chicken. It was awesome!

Five Healthy Things You Can Start Right Now! (They’re free and easy.)

Maybe you’re in a slump of sorts as the cold weather finally makes its way out the door…and you want to start feeling better NOW! I wanted to share a few things that you can do this very minute to make strides toward being more energetic and healthier. Sitting at work? On a break at school? At home on reading this on your phone? It doesn’t matter, you can do these things starting now!

1. Get a drink of water. I think everyone knows that water is vital to survival. But many of us don’t drink near enough of it! Why not? For the most part, it’s free. (I never buy bottled water for several reasons…we have a filter from the fridge.) Take a step right this minute and get you a drink of H2O! Staying hydrated makes you feel better for so many reasons. Drink more water for clearer skin and watch it help flush your system of the yucky things; think constipation. Just make it a habit to drink more water and you for sure won’t be sorry.

2. Get moving! I’ve found that if I’m feeling particularly un-energized…it only makes it worse if I sit down or lay down. Sometimes you need extra rest, of course. But I’m talking about just your normal day to day stuff. If you start lagging, get up and move! It’s amazing how that increase in your heart rate for just a minute or two can pep you up! It’s a mindset thing for me. I just have to make myself do it sometimes! I’m not talking about a 30 minute hard workout—but just a few minutes of dancing around, jumping jacks, squats, or just walking briskly! If you’re reading this at a desk or at work…stand up and move! It’ll get the blood flowing and make you feel alive! (But if you feel up to that workout, go for it, too!) Moving has sadly become less than natural in our society because we are stuck at a desk or in a car or at school. But take the time to do what we were designed to do in moving! Turn on some fun songs and dance around. You’d be so surprised that being silly and swinging your kids around can really get your blood pumping! (I have a mini-trampoline, a rebounder, that I’ll sometimes leave in my living room. Every time I walk past it, I’ll jump for a minute. It really is a good energizer!)

3. Make your next meal or snack a good one. So, you’ve had a Hardee’s biscuit for breakfast. Don’t let that ruin the rest of the day. Your very next meal or snack can redeem you. One amazing concept that has saved me many a time is the idea of “giving yourself grace” and knowing that if you mess up, three hours later eat something healthier. (Thank you, Trim Healthy Mama mindset!) The mess up is not the end of you. So right now, tell yourself that you are going to make healthy choices. Instead of eating a Pop-tart for your 3:00 pick-me-up, go for the apple and cheese stick instead! Grab a bag of almonds or cashews, buy the 000 Greek yogurts and feel good about your snack choices! Then when mealtimes come, choose wisely as well. Choose the grilled chicken with veggies! You’ve just kick started a healthier life. Go from there and be confident that you can make better choices every time you eat!

4. Think positively! Easier said than done to you? Sometimes I know it’s hard to get your mind in the right place. But when we make ourselves think happy, uplifting thoughts, we feel so much better. If you’re a Believer, there’s so many things we can remember to make our hearts and minds joyful. Just the thought of Jesus saving us should fill us with happiness. God’s blessed us so abundantly and having a heart of thankfulness is a health booster! How do you feel when you’re feeling sorry for yourself? Do you get anxious, worried, and pitiful? I do! You are capable of turning your thought process around. Only you can decide to be positive. In a world that eats us alive…choose to be different and think less of your problems and more about your blessings. (Listen to an encouraging podcast. Here are my favorites.)

5. Make yourself smile. I heard a new song on our Christian radio station the other day about “just smile”. Hearing the song playing made me automatically smile. Sometimes, even if we force ourselves to smile, a good mood will follow! You think I’m crazy? Try it now! Look at yourself in the mirror, or the reflection of your phone and let out a big toothy grin. It lifts our mood! Such a simple act that takes hardly any effort can possibly turn our day around! I personally have a very somber “resting face” and I want to try and change that! I hate for strangers (or even people I know) to think I’m mad or unhappy! I gotta learn to smile! Because I have so much to smile about.

So there you have it. Five things you can do right now to make yourself healthier. These tips don’t cost any money, they take minimal effort…so try them out NOW! 😊

Give It A Listen!

For the past several months, really this whole winter season, I’ve spent the days by staying home with my children, taking it easy, and listening to podcasts.

Taking it easy may be a stretch…I’ve managed to stay so busy at home! But really, listening to uplifting and encouraging voices on my phone has been so beneficial in so many ways. If you are around me for more than a few minutes, I’ll probably bring up something I heard on a podcast. I feel like I may start to sound aggravating to some people (my husband…my mama…my kids…) but I want them to share in the helpful things I’m learning, too!

Photo by Tommy Lopez on Pexels.com

I thought I would write a post on what I’m listening to, and how it has helped me. (They are in no particular order…I do not have a top favorite, I love them all.) I will of course encourage you to listen to these things as well!

1. At Home With Sally

Sally Clarkson is a wonderful Christian author and speaker. She has successfully raised four Christian children, two boys and two girls, so I am eager to listen to her tips! I have several of her books and I am always encouraged by her. What I love about her is that she speaks about love and joy and beauty in the home. It often pushes me to make my home a cleaner, prettier place just in practical terms. But she also inspires me to speak more gently to my children while pointing them to the compassion of Jesus. This is always a great reminder and I need it often! Sally speaks on homeschooling, mothering, and Christian friendship and I love every episode I have listened to!

2. From Our Home to Yours

Nancy Campbell, founder of Above Rubies, has the most soothing voice in the world. I love listening to her for her Bible teaching and common-sense approach to mothering. She takes her listeners through certain Scriptures while giving the Greek or Hebrew words, and it has helped me understand certain passages more deeply than before. I love her series on the Awe and Wonder of Life in the Womb. She is a wonderful voice for pro-life. Through listening to her podcasts, I have learned to consider my children and my calling to stay at home a huge blessing. She encourages us mothers to pursue our calling with delight and purpose. I always come away from listening to Nancy with renewed strength to take on the day!

3. Trim Healthy Podcast w/Serene and Pearl

I love Trim Healthy Mama. I have all the books and I love what these ladies have to say about health. So, you can imagine my excitement when they announced they were recording a podcast weekly. (Nancy Campbell in my #2 podcast? She’s Serene and Pearl’s mama.)

I tune into this podcast once a week to get my dose of inspiration to continue eating healthily. It never fails that I fall into a weekly slump of craving junk food…then I’ll listen to this podcast and it gives me the kick in the pants I always need to get back on track. They have great tips, recipes, and just general advice that I like to hear. It’s always encouraging to me. I love their happy attitudes and they often tie in Bible truths to their health tips.

Along with the THM podcast, they put out a monthly show called the Serene and Pearl Unshow. It’s mostly funny stories and things they can’t talk about on an official THM podcast. I enjoy it for the fun of it and it always makes me smile.   

4. Old Fashioned on Purpose

Jill Winger has been in my life for nearly 8 years. I found her as I was beginning our journey of “homesteading” and used many of her from scratch recipes to get me started out. I followed her for years. I’ve used her homemade laundry detergent recipe, candle and soap tutorials, and learned all about milking goats from her blog. Theprairiehomestead.com has been a great resource over the years. She published a cookbook last year, which I love, and then she announced she was going to record podcasts! Yay! Her episodes are fairly short, twenty minutes, and I can get a good dose of old fashioned inspiration quick! She has time saving tips, recipes, homeschool advice, and so much more!

5. Mark Driscoll Audio

These series of sermons from Mark Driscoll are long…but they are worth listening to! He is currently teaching on the book of Daniel. These sermons are from his home church. It is a good supplement of Bible teaching throughout the week. My husband listens to him on the way to work and back, and can knock out a sermon in a day and a half. He teaches through different books of the Bible and of course you can download past sermons. He has taught through Galatians, Philippians, Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and more. My favorite time to listen to him is when I’m preparing dinner. Then it’s fun to discuss what I’ve been learning at the dinner table!

6. River Oaks Community Church

This podcast is sermons from our own church! Sometimes it’s hard to listen when you have wiggly children in your lap…or I’m in the children’s class teaching…so being able to listen back to our weekly sermons is such a blessing! We are currently working through the book of Ephesians. If I miss a point…I can rewind on the podcast!

7. TennesseeFarmTable

Last but certainly not least…I encourage you to tune in to Amy Campbell’s local radio show, The Tennessee Farm Table! She airs her podcast every Friday evening, and then the show comes on our local radio station WDVX (wdvx.com) on Saturday mornings at 9 am. She features local farmers and producers on her show. She interviews folks who are working hard to keep old traditions alive. She has a passion for Appalachian food and preservation methods. If you have followed us for very long, you may have seen me advertise for Amy before! My husband and I have both been on this podcast talking about our farm and what we do. This is a fun podcast and very informative as well. Tune in to learn a thing or two about our local farmers…and listen to some great bluegrass music too.

That’s my list! I’d love it if you joined me in listening. Do you have a favorite podcast? Share it with me and I’ll give it a listen, too

How to Make Simple Soy Wax Candles

I want to clear something up real quick before ya’ll read this tutorial.

I’m no expert candle maker. I don’t have the patience to learn all the different techniques that’s involved with “real” candlemaking.

But if you want a quick, cute, unique gift…this is a winner!

Friends will think you have some secret candle-making talent when you bring these out.

Before you get started, have these materials gathered:

Soy wax (I use this kind, ordered straight from Amazon. This is my affiliate link, so if you purchase any from this link, I will get a small credit. All links on this post are affiliate links, just so you are aware.)

-Crock pot. I use an old hand-me-down that is retired from cooking food. I also use it to make soap.

-Candle scent, if desired. The possibilities are fun and endless!

Candle wick. I prefer these. You can purchase any old wick from Hobby Lobby, but the ones that are pre-dipped in wax burn better, in my experience.

-Container of choice. This is so fun. Choosing a non-porous container, whether it be a glass jar or tea cup, is where your creativity can shine! I love shopping for China cups or unique glassware at second hand stores. They are extremely cheap. And you never know what you will find at such a place! If you can’t find anything in Goodwill, you can always choose the 4 oz Mason jar. They even make them in different shapes if you’re willing to pay a little extra. Look for fun containers at garage sales, too!

Here’s the process:

1. Fill your candle container with the soy wax pieces. I fill them up to the top, as the wax will melt and you’ll have to add more.

2. Put all the filled containers in the crockpot. The size of your crock—and the containers—will determine how many candles you can do in one batch.

3. Add water slowly to the crockpot, around your containers. Make sure there is enough fill water to warm the containers to melt the wax, but not so high that the water sloshes into the candles, or the containers float!

4. Set the crockpot on high, and let the wax melt.

5. Depending on the strength of your crockpot, it will be at least an hour before your wax melts completely. However, it doesn’t have to be completely melted for you to add more wax to the containers. Just keep adding the wax until it is all the way melted, and you have filled your container to the desired fullness. Obviously, you don’t want the wax to be all the way to the top of your container. That’s just asking for spills, and that will burn you! So use discretion, and don’t overfill the container with wax. You will know how much to add by looking at it as it melts.

6. After the wax has melted and is filled to a reasonable height…turn off the crockpot.

7. You don’t have to work so quickly that you are sloppy…but working fairly quickly…put on heat proof gloves or oven mitts of some kind and carefully take the candles out of the hot crock pot. If you have canning tongs, use those on circle jars or tea cups. I have had odd shaped containers that make using canning tongs more dangerous.

8. Set them on a heat proof surface. I set them on my oven. (I made a boo-boo once and set them on one of my kitchen towels. I had some leakage…and nearly ruined my towel. When that wax melts it is nearly impossible to clean it out of a towel!)

9. Quickly position the wick in the candle. This is the hardest part for me. I usually end up taking long skewers, and wrapping the wick around it to stabilize it in the center. Then I set it on top of the candle until the wax hardens.

10. While the wax is still melted, add the scent. It really depends on your brand of scent…but I add about 15-20 drops. I honestly haven’t experimented with too many essential oils, but I have heard that the heat from the hot wax makes the essential oils evaporate. Feel free to experiment, because that’s how we figure things out! 😉

11. Allow the candles to sit undisturbed for several hours until the wax has completely cooled. Keep them away from children who like to put their fingers in them, thereby ruining the smooth surface of the wax…

12. That’s it! You have a hand-made, beautiful gift or party favor for your friends and family!

Further ideas:

My mama and I hosted a ladies’ brunch recently and I made candles for all the girls. Since it was kind of a tea party, I wanted to find lovely China cups, but I struck out and didn’t find any. So I found some neat little galvanized containers at Hobby Lobby. I thought these would be perfect! They did turn out well…but I had a few leaks in the containers! So be mindful of that when choosing the container. It was a mess and I had to redo a few….but in the end it turned out ok!

I added a small piece of paper with a Bible verse printed on it and twine around the candle, and ta-da!

You can decorate the exterior of the candle however you choose. The possibilities of ribbon and lace and attachments are literally endless. Remember it is a candle though. So don’t get too carried away and create a fire hazard!

There are so many other candle wax options out there, too. I chose soy wax because it is easy and clean. But you can go to any craft store and find candle wax options.

I have used beeswax before. I love beeswax of course, but it is really messy! Have a dedicated beeswax melting pot! That stuff sticks like crazy when it dries. I have heard of rolling beeswax candles, but I haven’t tried it.

Like I said when we started, I would never claim to be a candle making expert. But I love showing up with cute homemade gifts. Plus making soy candles is a fun skill to have under your belt.

Monday Wash Day: An Experiment

It seems that every person I’ve talked to about doing laundry the old-fashioned way said that their Mama did it on Monday.

To me, that is a crummy way to start the week.

My papaw Wes said his mother was always hateful on wash day. I always answer him, “No wonder!”.

I really wanted to get the feel for this way of doing laundry. On a fairly sunny day at the end of October, I tried it.

Every now and then I become very discouraged by our modern conveniences. I used to think that having a little cabin without electricity at all would be so idyllic. I don’t know if idyllic is the right word…more like back breaking constant work! So I came to the conclusion to be thankful for these conveniences instead of cursing them all the time.

I could make it pretty fair on a wood burning cookstove…I would be fine with no air conditioner…I do my dishes without a dishwasher…but doing laundry without a washer and dryer? I’d rather not. Here’s my journey through primitive wash day.

My resources for this little project was from what I heard from my grandparents, and notes from Foxfire 2. (Check out my affiliate link on Amazon to purchase these Appalachian treasures.)

Wash Day necessities:

Iron pots

Battling bench

Battling board and battling stick (rough chopped bench made from a log. Keep the top ridges rough so the dirt can run off easier.)

One long thick stick

Soap

Clothesline

Plenty of water

Kids for free labor (optional)

1. Get started early. Fill your pot with clean water. (I cheated here, I had a water hose. I didn’t have to tote it bucket by bucket from the spring or creek. According to Papaw, this was the kids’ jobs anyway.)

You’ll need at least two big iron pots. One to put over the fire, and one to rinse. It is recommended to have another pot for a second rinse. (I just had two.)

2. Make a hot fire under pot #1, and bring the water to a boil…or almost boil. When the water is hot enough, drop in a bar of soap. I used my homemade lye soap to be authentic!

3. Then, put in your clothes, and use the long thick stick aforementioned to stir them around. I stirred and tossed them around for several minutes.

4. Taking out one article of clothing at a time, slap them on the battling bench. Use the battling stick to beat the dirt out of the clothes. Ridged washing boards were used, too. Since I’m doing this pretty primitively, I opted for the battling bench instead of the board. It’s the same concept, though.

Side note: I’ll take a minute to comment on the clothing I used for this experiment. I used our mostly cotton material-ed clothing we used to re-enact down at Fort Loudoun State Historic Site. So it was pretty thin…and my little boys things were pretty dirty, and the battling stick actually did help knock the grime out. (I’ve since made the historical switch to linen after a few months of research and sewing new clothing, but that’s a whole different topic.)

Here was the bad part: I had not pre-washed their little checkered neck kerchiefs (pretty much like a bandana) and the green dye started to leach. I was afraid it might stain my more natural colored clothing, so I got them out before everything started to turn green!

5. Put the battled clothing into rinse pot #2. This pot is not on the fire. But it is set close to make the switch from battling bench to pot easy. Stir it to rinse well. Traditionally, another rinse pot would be set up for another rinse. I skimped here…because I could refill quickly with the water hose.

6. Once the clothes are rinsed well, take them out and set them on the line. Wringing methods are debatable. In later years of course you could have a wringer that you ran the clothes through. There were even electric ringers on the market. You could wring them with your hands (this makes for very tired hands), or just slap the wet clothing on the line and go on. I chose the third method but gave them a quick wring to not be so dripping wet.

7. The clothes will dry after being on the line all day.

8. I hate the thoughts of having to iron clothes the way my great-grandmothers would have after the long afternoon of standing around the wash-yard.

But if I did…I’d have to heat my iron…iron every piece of clothing…and put it up neatly. I’m sorry to say this chore and my personality do not mesh well.

So I didn’t iron my clothes. Instead, I cheated big time and popped them into my dryer for the finish.

I’m so very glad I did this. And I’ll probably do it again, just for fun. (I know, I’m a little crazy.) I am however, very thankful I don’t have to do this every week.

There are several observations I want to mention about laundry:

  • Our ancestors did not have a billion articles of clothing like we do today. It would make laundry so much easier if we each had a few tops, a few bottoms, little underwear, and a few socks. The laundry pile of yesteryear was not as formidable as todays, I’m sure.
  • Having older children to help during washday would make it a much easier chore as well. One woman doing the whole thing would be very tiring. I don’t see how women survived it alone. My great grandmother Minnie told her children that she had to stay home from school, her and her sisters, to help their mother with the wash. From the mother’s viewpoint…I don’t blame her for holding her girls back from morning lessons. I would have demanded the help, too. But as a daughter it might seem unfair to have to miss school to help with such a chore.
  • If everyone you knew wore the same clothes several days in a row…no one would know you smelled a little funny, because everyone smelled the same. So… no Gain fresh scent was wafting around during those days.
  • In an emergency situation, of course the clothes could be washed out quickly in some clean water and a little soap. You wouldn’t always need to wait a whole week for the big event. But it couldn’t be dried in less than an hour. I don’t know how many times I’ve spent only a couple hours washing and drying a load of clothing that contained jeans I needed for the day. That wouldn’t have been a reality 100 years ago.
  • Photo credits go to my little four-year-old boy. The younger brothers enjoyed playing around outside while I did the chore. I pity the women who had to care for little ones while doing laundry. Their nerves and muscles both had to be shot. Thank goodness for laundry machines we have today!

The Winter Heritage Festival

Attention history buffs!

This weekend, January 24 and 25, the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center and the Cades Cove Preservation Association (CCPA) will be hosting the Winter Heritage Festival. This two day free event will feature local historians, descendants, and former residents of Cades Cove. Visit gsmheritagecenter.org for the speaker line-up. There will be some very informative and interesting presentations, so make it a point to come out and see us!

This photo was from last year. Although I can’t cook everything on an open fire for this cast iron lunch, it will all be cooked in cast iron.

J&R Farms (My husband John and I) will be hosting our second annual Cast iron dinner at noon on Saturday the 25th. We will be serving pinto beans, cornbread, hominy, collard greens, and peach cobbler! A plate and drink is $10, cash only.

We will be preparing the food in cast iron, and at the event itself, we will be cooking some of the food on an open fire. I must point out that our food will be seasoned with Benton’s Bacon. Need I say more?

Last year was a great success and I am looking forward to cookin’ again.

I rarely take photos of myself…but I like the goats in the background here.

We will have a donation box available for Coats for our Community, a program that the Blount County Fire Department always heads up. I will also be sure to have a box for actual coats. Please bring your gently used coats (or brand new!) to donate as well.

Help us make this year a good one– and come out to learn some history and fill your belly with some traditional Appalachian food!

For more info, here are the websites once more:

Gsmheritagecenter.org

Cadescovepreservation.com

The Story I Never Wanted to Tell

I prayed I would never have to write a post like this. But here we are, and I’m using the space I have here to tell a story about a miscarriage.

Every pregnancy is different. Every woman is different. I didn’t want to join the ranks of mother’s who’ve went through a miscarriage. I’ve prayed every pregnancy that this wouldn’t ever happen. But it did.

After a week or so of feeling not quite right…and not quite pregnant anymore (which is hard to explain), we started worrying that something was wrong. I’ll not go into detail here, but after a week of questions we got our answer about what was going on inside. No more pregnancy was the final answer.

People will tell a woman going through this that the Lord knows best or that your body just knew that this wasn’t going to be a viable pregnancy. While these things do help to know, you still wish it wasn’t the truth.

I had a few moments of thinking everything would be okay but I didn’t let my hopes rise too much because sometimes you just have an intuition telling you the truth.

As we tried getting to sleep while processing through all this, I had one thing pop into my mind. It was an old hymn, some of you may know it.

“Do the tears fall down your cheeks unbidden? Tell it to Jesus alone.” Tell it to Jesus played over and over, and looking back I am thankful I had the quiet hours of the night to reflect and pray and sort everything out in my mind. It was a great mercy to let this happen when I could have time to process what was going on.

Of course, all sorts of crazy thoughts raced through my mind as I had that constant stream of the peace of the Lord. I had to shew those crazy thoughts away and hook myself onto the rock that I knew was solid.

After a conflicted and sorrowful night, our family went up to the mountains to be alone and get some fresh air. We always go to the mountains when we’re going through hard times and it always proves to be a balm to us. (“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2) This time was no different. The night before was stormy– literally, our power had gone out and it rained all night. But the morning was so beautiful and the weather was perfect for January. It was warm and pleasant so walking around Tremont and being in nature helped heal me just a little more.

Through a painful stormy night, joy came in the morning, just like God promised in Psalm 30:5. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” We were so thankful for this.

When you get to thinking about such hard things, many truths become more real. Maybe this is why this happened to me. I learn new things every time we go through trials we’d rather not have to walk through. And I thought sharing them might help someone else understand if they’re going through a hard time, too.

This truth is real: there is a part of me that is already with Jesus. It feels weird to write. It’s something I haven’t been able to say until now. We believe that life begins at conception. If I had a living being in my body, that isn’t there anymore, then my baby is with the Lord.

My mother shared something profound with me that she had read: A baby that hasn’t been born yet hasn’t even had the opportunity to be “born” into sin. All of us who have been born, have been born sinners and in need of Jesus to save us. These little ones that haven’t breathed outside the womb are spared the stain of sin. They are acceptable before God and He carries them right into heaven with him. Regardless of your theological leanings, this is a great comfort, isn’t it?

I thought it was.

My family is so blessed and thankful for everyone that covered us in prayer during this time. We certainly felt them and we are at peace and are comforted by His Spirit. It’s our desire that this experience will glorify our God in a great way and comfort anyone else that has been through the same thing.

John 1:16 “And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

New Year Greetings: Happy 2020!

It’s the new year! I tried my best to explain to my little boy what a new year means. To a four-year-old with no concept of months or years, it was a difficult task. But he knows that we are going to celebrate it anyway. So, we will celebrate with hog jowl, greens, and black-eyed peas with our family and ponder what it means to start 2020.

A few changes have come upon J&R Farms in the internet world. I decided after a few months of deliberation to remove us from the Facebook scene. It was something I felt like I should do…because I do not write these stories for social media attention…and the best way to make that clear to myself was to completely get off the screen. I also have trust issues with a big platform such as Facebook.

So no more Facebook and no more checking the app constantly to see if I should post something or check and see if I got any “likes”. That was mind numbing to me.

I also considered getting rid of the blog permanently, but I decided that I really do like the outlet to write my stories. And maybe there’s a few folks out there who enjoy reading what I scrounge up. Thank you to those few people! So now instead of reaching out through Facebook, if you happen to check this blog site, still feel free to email or comment on the site instead of on good ol’ Facebook. I have decided to keep Instagram, so I may post farm photos every now and then just for fun. Of course, if you are on Facebook, give the link a share if you feel like someone may benefit from reading a post.

As for soap orders, I always will be available through my email, johnandrachel33@aol.com.

Part of our desire to live “old-timey” didn’t make much sense if I was checking my phone every time I had the chance. I much prefer the low-tech lifestyle.

My time is much better spent watching my little boys play in the yard instead of trying to get my internet to work in our patchy service up here in the East Tennessee hills.

Enough of that talk, let me share some more exciting news from our family. We are expecting baby #4! We shared the news with our family on Christmas, and the reactions from our family members were great.

I am enjoying this time of year where I can really slow down, stay at home, and care for my little boys in peace! Thankfully the weather turned quite warm after Christmas, and my husband was off for the whole week. We had much needed outside time (for the little farm boys) and I was able to catch up on a few things.

We cleaned out and purged…then made room for new Christmas goodies. We ate terribly unhealthy for a few days now I want to get us back on track. It all comes together in time for the new year.

I love starting fresh. I always set goals, and while I don’t stick to them perfectly, (who does?) I still like to plan and dream.

Here’s to the new year! (I’ll raise my glass of non-alcoholic muscadine juice.) Everyone in our family hopes you and yours had a great holiday season, had time to reflect on the Lord’s goodness, and now off to a good 2020!

The Importance of Fixin’ Dinner

I saw a commercial the other night. It was of a family rushing around, trying to get out the door, and they didn’t have time for dinner. The catchy phrase in the ad was “There are more important things than fixing dinner.”

That line stuck with me for a few minutes. My husband didn’t even notice it, but I think it reflects some things that the world is trying to tell our families.

Here lately, I’ve been really immersing myself in some great podcasts about godly mothering, family, homemaking…and I’ve also been reading along the same topics. So this phrase in the commercial really stuck out because it’s not what I’m used to hearing.

(Disclaimer: I’m not bashing anyone who happens to have a busy evening every now and then and has to stop and get fast food. I’ve been there a hundred times. I’m just reflecting on a wider topic—hoping to shed some light on the importance of family time.)

Our family doesn’t watch TV a whole lot. There are many reasons…and listening to worldly views about family is a big reason. In the media, children are disrespectful, fathers are bumbling dummies, and mothers are busy, very fashionable and usually in charge…rolling her eyes at her idiot husband and grounding her mouthy children, and this is usually followed by laughter from the audience. Again, I’m not against fashion or women leaders! But the way the world presents the family is becoming more and more distant from what God’s design was meant to be.

In the world of outspoken and rampant feminism, the family unit is falling far from what it was meant to be. I’ll not elaborate on that topic just now…but if you want to look further into what the Bible says about family roles, see Ephesians chapters 5 and 6; or Titus 2. Just to name two sources.

Back to the commercial.

It’s no secret that in recent times, having dinner around the table as a family has gone by the wayside. We are just too busy! There are more “important” things than fixing dinner.

But I just wanted to ask you…what’s more important that sitting down with your loved ones after a long day, and filling your belly with a hot, delicious, nutritious meal? Filling the hearts of your family with love and togetherness?

I’ve been so very blessed to grow up in a home where my mama made sure we were always together around the table.

Not every evening was picture perfect. In fact, I remember my daddy telling my brother and I to stop acting like monkeys at a circus and eat our dinner and shut up!

I can relate to that now with three boys and my husband at the table! Just like my mama, and her mama…and hers…I make it a point to have dinner and sometimes FORCE everyone to sit at the table!

I don’t do it because it’s a rule that I think has to be followed, or that somehow having family dinners makes me a better Christian. Not at all.

I do it because I want my children and husband to see how much I love them.

I want to show them that dinnertime is a time to slow down, talk, and enjoy time together.

I hope, just like my mama, to instill in my children that being together for a little time in the evening is a stabilizing, predictable part of the day.

Please don’t go away from reading this thinking that I have it all together with my perfectly mannered boys, eating their dinner with smiles and prayers and gratefulness. (I wish! Ha!)

Sometimes it’s quite the challenge. The oldest boy refuses to eat something that he enjoyed the week before. He throws up. I scream. Milk is spilled. The floor is a disaster. He has to sit at the table and finish his food or he can’t go outside to play. The counters and sink is full of dirty dishes and I’m too tired to clean it up. Cheese is caked to the oven and it’ll take a scalpel to remove it. My husband is rushing out the door to get to his chores and I’m frustrated that I didn’t get to say a single word to him! I could go on!

But despite all that, even though it seems hard at times, I know that it is the best for us.

After I fill everyone’s plates and sit down for the first time, I take a deep breath. Before anyone asks for anything else, I can take at least three seconds to look around and think to myself “I am so blessed to be able to serve my family.”

It may not be the popular opinion these days, but it’s something I will strive for every single day. Who cares about popular opinions, anyhow? I will make time to do what is important: and that is serving dinner to my family.

Five Lessons From the Garden

Although it still feels like summer here in East Tennessee, the garden seems to think it is fall. It has been in the 90’s this week, and it is the first week of October. I think everyone is ready for some cooler weather…and some rain.

My husband let our corn dry on the stalk, and he picked it last night for hominy making. He also picked the remnant of green beans for seed and hopefully for soup beans. The garden is pretty much done. (It’s been rather dry here…so it’s been done for a few weeks now.)

I was just reflecting on the summer and our growing season, and I realized that I have learned a few valuable lessons from the garden. Here are a few that come to mind.

1. Don’t pick the seed cucumbers.

What in the world do I mean by this? Well, I made a rookie mistake in the garden earlier this summer. We had planted some heirloom Cades Cove White Cucumbers, and despite a weird early blight on all our squash and cucumber plants, some still managed to push through and produce. But not many. I was busily and hurriedly picking cucumbers one morning because if we missed a day of picking, there would be wasted cucumbers because they grow so fast.

I made sure to get all of the special white cucumbers, even a larger looking one, because I didn’t want to miss any.

When my husband got home from work, he noticed I picked the white cucumbers, and then went on to fuss a little because I picked the cucumber he was letting go for seed. Oops.

When you want to save seed, especially heirloom seed!, you want to let the vegetable get pretty big, so the seeds will be…well, big. I accidentally almost ruined a seed saving opportunity. Thank goodness the early blight didn’t completely kill the plants just yet, and we saved the seed out of another good looking big cucumber.

I would have hated to single handed-ly ruin next years white cucumber seed.

2. Don’t count your salsa jars before the tomatoes hatch.

This is a sad one. We set out sixty-some-odd tomato plants this year. I may be a little strange, but one of my favorite things to preserve is tomatoes. So we made sure we had plenty! I love canning at least fifty quarts of whole tomatoes, several spaghetti sauce jars, and especially different types of salsa. I even did homemade Ro-tel a few years ago. I love canning tomatoes. I love not having to buy them from the store even more!

I had a good start on canning the tomatoes. I didn’t let them pile up too awful bad, and I was canning whole tomatoes left and right. Then, I started to notice the tomatoes that were coming in the house was not big bright red and juicy like they were a week before. Not too long after, my husband said the plants were dying.

I was pretty upset that our crop of tomatoes, much like the squash, got hit by some kind of blight. It was very unfortunate.

I didn’t get any salsa canned. But that’s the way life goes on a farm. I’m sorry to have to buy it, because home canned is so much better!

3. Deer and tater bugs want to destroy it all.

Last year, my husband heard that if you put human hair around the border of the garden, the deer will stay away. (His mother cuts hair at her own beauty salon…so that’s how we came by hair…in case you were wondering!) It worked for a while. It was a good solution, but maybe the deer got used to it, and they were caught trying to eat whatever they could.

This year, he heard that putting Irish Spring soap up around the borders would keep the deer out. So he tied Irish Spring and Ivory soap bars up on poles around the garden! It may have looked a little funny, but it worked! A few deer tracks were spotted, but they didn’t get in and destroy anything, thank goodness!

Another ridiculous pest in the garden is potato bugs. They appear out of nowhere, and they can’t be stopped.

Method #1 was trying a homemade bug repellent, made out of hot pepper, onion, and vinegar, but it didn’t work.

Method #2 was having little boys squish all the bugs they could find. That would work in theory, but as soon as they squashed one, two would show up.

Method #3 was the last resort, but the only way to save the tater crop. He had to spray with insecticide.

My organic gardening ideals were sort of really hurt…but my husband assured me it was for the best. (I prayed and told myself even though they were sprayed, it’s still much less toxic than what they’ve got at the grocery store.) So the lesson was, sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do for a good turnout in the long run.

4. The garden doesn’t cooperate with my schedule.

This summer was a whirlwind of busyness. I hate to say that, because I don’t want my life to be characterized by being too busy all the time! But it was a blur. We had a lot of things to do. By the time August came around and it was time to start school, I was ready for a break from running around so much.

The garden keeps us at home more than most families. All season, my husband would get off work and come home and work in the garden.

Our routine was pretty nice, thinking back on it. If I was busy throughout the morning, we were always home in the evening. As I was fixing dinner, he would take the older boys to the garden with him, and work until supper.

After supper, they would head back out and stay until dark. Sometimes I went too, but having a baby and cleaning up supper dishes kept me at the house.

We had to miss activities because we had to pick the garden.

My husband couldn’t relax until he got the tilling done, or the hoeing, or the picking.

It just had to be done.

The garden definitely ruled the activity planning.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

5. Gardens are reminders of greater truths.

Every year, when the ground is plowed, the seeds planted, and the produce grows…I am first reminded of this: “And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”” Genesis 1:29, and “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15.

After Creation, God took Adam and put him in a perfect garden to tend to. I can only imagine the beauty of that place. It is nice to think that man’s first job was to garden. But…

“Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17b-19

After the Fall, when sin entered the world, even gardening became cursed. Something that was perfectly holy and beautiful at first is now cursed. All because of sin.

Our world is not perfect and the results of the fall, the curse, are everywhere.

I just picture my hardworking husband sweating buckets into the soil and it is exactly as God said. We have to toil to make our food.

That sounds pretty grim.

But, even when God cursed the ground, he gave us a glimmer of hope. He promised a Deliverer would come to one day fix what was messed up by sin.

I won’t keep ya’ll guessing…the Deliverer is Jesus!

Jesus took our curse on the cross. He took on the punishment that we deserved for our sin. Our fallen bodies and fallen gardens will not be made completely whole now…

But through redemption in Jesus we have a promise that one day, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Saints will have new bodies and I bet the gardens that we will keep will be unlike anything we can imagine. No blights and no tater bugs.

It’s a wonderful mystery to think about. The world was turned upside down after the fall in the garden of Eden. Jesus will one day turn it all right again.