Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hope in the Darkness

I often find December to be very difficult.  In many ways, as I continue to reel from the hateful rhetoric and policies revealed after the election, I'm finding this December to be even harder than others.  

I don't know when I started to feel disconnected with the Christmas season.  Since I entered adulthood I have struggled with the commercial nature of the season and the expectation to do everything with extravagence.  I've worn myself out crafting home made gifts to protect our family budget, and still often felt that I fell short of other's expectations.  Since having children I've also added a general feeling of exhaustion in December since there are so many extras that get tacked on to our already full schedule.  To be fair, there aren't many of those traditions I'd like to give up, and the kids are still enthusiastic so I soldier on.  

And then, four years ago, 20 children and six educators were brutally murdered eleven days before Christmas.  I don't know any of those parents personally, so maybe my continued grief is misplaced.  But, I am an educator and a parent.  I teach with the ghosts of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Columbine echoing in my head.  We've had two high level incidents of violent intent at my school this year, and in some manner we're always on alert.  It's a fear that never really goes away.  This time of year (Sandy Hook - 12/14/12) , and in mid April  (Columbine - 4/20/99) I find myself envisioning things too horrible to write here, and wondering when I say goodbye to my children if it will be forever. 

This time of year especially I hold my children a little closer, and bury my noses in their hair like I did when they were babies.  When I feel their no longer little arms press around me I can't help think of those Sandy Hook parents who had that chance taken from them.  They never anticipated that morning's goodbye would be the last.

Christmas feels hard.  

Advent... Advent is easier.

I've found some Hope in Advent.  The promise of Christ that is to come is much more powerful for me than the rememberance of Christ the baby that was.

Lights in the Darkness

Holden Vespers

I'm blessed with a wonderful pastor that spreads love and social justice with every breath he makes.  He's also a fantastic musician.  Every Wednesday during Advent I am able to sing and play and worship through Marty Haugen's Holden Vespers.  I draw power from the example of Mary, and remember that even when the world seemed like it was turned upside down she still praised, trusted and remembered.  I try to do the same.

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm.
He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things.
And the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel
as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his seed forever.


Although we started lighting the Hanukkah lights as a way to create some religious sensitivity in our children, I have come to find Hope in the lights and promises of Hanukkah.  When the candles are lit the prayers all start by saying, "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe."  For above all else Hanukkah is a festival of Hope.   Hanukkah reminds me to continue to spread the light and work to heal the breach.  The Maccabees were a small group working in hopeless conditions who only had the promise of God to light their way.  

Advent Sermons and Texts
Both the pastors I know, and the ones I listen to through podcasts have such wise words that help dispel the darkness.  This sermon by Nadia Bolz Weber is the best I've heard.

Tonight I'll light a Candle and I'll Remember

When I sing the prayers at tonight's Holden service I'll think about the lost ones of Sandy Hook and their families who wake up each day with a hole in their hearts.  Later, I'll pray for them alone at home and hope that we'll one day live in a world where parents don't have to worry about losing their children to violence.  I'll remember those 26 and other victims of violence throughout the world.   I'll hope for the promise given in Isaiah.

Isaiah 9:2-7The Message (MSG)

2-7 The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
    light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
    you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
    Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
    sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
    all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
    as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
    along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
    a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
    and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He’ll rule from the historic David throne
    over that promised kingdom.
He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing
    and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
    beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will do all this.

In their names...
from The Mourner's Kaddish..
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights,
may He create peace for us and for all Israel;
and say, Amen.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fall 2

It looks like fall, but with the exception of a few cold nights it's been really warm.  We've continued to have days in the 70s and 80s.  Now that Halloween is over I'm ready to start thinking about Christmas and ski season, but it still feels like we're in mid September.  I still love fall, but I'm ready for wood fires and sweater weather.

Ed built a Halbshausen with his most recent firewood cuttings.

 Halloween Fun

Trunp and Clinton Pumpkins

Jack O'Pepper

Eli as Trump at our church's Trunk or Treat.  Our pastor told us that he was very disturbed to see our son dressed as the devil.  Seriously, it's the scariest costume he's ever worn.
Robin Hood - we wanted her to be Clinton.  I guess this is close enough.

 Fall Camping

We had a lovely fall weekend and had some of our favorite people on the planet join us for an evening.  We're often so busy that camping and traveling provide us with opportunities to just spend time together without any interruptions.  We even taught the kids to play Pit - that was a blast!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fast, French, Fabulous

I was treated to an unexpected visit by one of my oldest and dearest friends.  He's often able to stop in on his way North this time of year so I usually try to keep some ingredients for some fast, yet elegant meals on hand.  It helps that there is an abundance of produce available both from the garden and from the CSA bag.  I found out that he'd be coming for dinner around lunch, finalized a menu in my head during the early afternoon, and cranked the oven to 450 when I got home.  We were eating by 5:15 and had a healthy and filling meal in front of us and great conversation between us.  

Roasted Salmon

Put a cast iron skillet into the oven set at 450.  When the oven (and skillet) is hot put the salmon down, salt and pepper it and drizzle it with olive oil.  Bake 10 minutes.  Scatter on garlic, lemon slices and fresh parsley.  Bake 5 - 10 min. more until the fish flakes.

Roasted Cauliflower

Put Cauliflower on a roasting sheet, drizzle with olive oil, chopped garlic and sage.  Roast 20 min. Add salt and pepper and fresh parmesean if you have it.

Sweet Potato Gratin

Par boil whole sweet potatoes for about 15 min. until fork tender.  Drain and cool.  Peel off the skins, slice and put into a baking pan.  Scatter chopped garlic and sage over the top.  Salt and pepper.  Cover with heavy cream and chees (Swiss or Mozarella work well).  Bake for about 10 min. untilt the cheese is melty.

Also on the table - Apparition wine from Americana Vineyards in Trumansburg, NY.  This is the perfect fall wine.  We love this vineyard and I usually buy at least four or five bottles so there's enough for fall entertaining.

This was a perfect meal with one of my favorite people on the planet.  What a great way to end a Monday.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fall Fun # 1

It's been a busy fall so far, but that's pretty normal around here.  Although we actually have fewer kid activities happening this year, it's seemed like much more is happening.  Part of that is that I'm teaching all Juniors this semester and that's the big English testing year in our state.  So, that's meant that I constantly have a huge pile of grading to finish.  But, even with all of the running around it's been a great fall so far.  It hasn't felt like fall here - it's been consistently in the high 80s.  As soccer wraps up and we head into November,  I'm looking forward to fall part two.  Hopefully it will be a little calmer and a little cooler.

Survival Strategy # 1  Crock Pot

We are managing to drive together most days this year which is good.  However, it also means that there are several days when we need to eat as soon as we walk in the door.  The crock pot is a fantastic tool that I use several times a week.  It's been a little hard to find recipes for the early fall though since it's been so warm.  I'll do soups later in the year, but no one is really in the mood for hot soup on a humid 85 degree afternoon.  This Lentil Dal really fits the bill.  I usually do a crock pot of rice in another smaller cooker, so dinner is all set when we get home.  It's a crowd pleaser, it goes together in about 5 min. in the morning, it makes enough to freeze or to have leftovers for lunch, and it makes the house smell amazing.

Crock Pot Lentil Dal
3 c. red lentils or split peas
6 c. water
28 oz. tomatoes
2T onion, garlic, fresh ginger
1T tumeric
1 bay leaf
2 t. cumin, mustard seeds
1 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper

Daddy/Daughter Camping

The girl and her dad were able to go out and camp together this year.  I love that they do that.  Eli and I went to the high school football game to cheer on my school's amazing guys.  We all had a great weekend together.

The Harvest (or Lack Thereof)

It was a pretty pitiful garden year.  The beans and flowers did really well.  Everything else was a bust. At least the garden looks pretty and because it's been so warm they're still blooming.

Pumpkin Patch

We headed to the local pumpkin patch and apple orchard with some great friends.  It was an awesome afternoon.  We had planned to go to the corn maze as well, but it was closed because of the heavy rain the day before.  Oh well, figures, the only weekend we have rain would be the weekend we planned to head there.  I'm loving watching these kids grow up and I'm so grateful for my parent friends as we help shepherd eachother through their teenage years (four of the five in that picture are now middle schoolers).

It was $40 to fill the wheelbarrow - we got as much as we could.


View from the apple orchard

Redskins Game

Ed and Eli had another chance to go to a Redskins game together.  They even won!  

Growing Up

We now have two middle schoolers (6th and 8th).  They've gotten so grown up so fast.  Mostly that is a good thing.  They're both pretty responsible, and most days they're kind and easy to be with.  No matter the age I love these kids so fiercely.  I'm already realizing that there are only four short years after this before our household starts decreasing.  It really makes me wish we had a bigger family.  It's going to be really quiet around here when they're gone.

1st day of school

Confirmation - She's now considered an adult in the Lutheran church.

Applesauce Weekend

It wasn't much of a party this year.  We had to do applesauce at our house because of Emma's confirmation, and the kids, Ed and my Dad had a school service event.  So, mom and I tackled four bushels of apples ourselves.  I missed having cousins and the weekend at the farm.  There's always next year.  At least the job is done.  I used the big pressure cooker to cook down the apples and it worked really well.  We got some fantastic tasting sauce.

I made him help me with the last half bushel because my hand hurt.


We held the campout a weekend earlier than normal.  The weather was gorgeous, but we were competing with several other events.  So, we had the smallest turn out we've ever had.  It was still a fun weekend, but we'll probably go back to hosting later in the fall next year.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bake Oven

Sometimes it takes me a while to use something new.  This is especially true if the new tool shows up during the school year.  I just don't seem to have the capacity and mental energy to add learning how to use a new tool to the already long list of tasks I have during the school year.  

So last summer, 2015, Eli and Ed built a wood fired clay bake oven.  It was completed by the end of July, but then it needed time to dry.  Then we went to the beach, then traveled some more and then school was upon us.  This summer I was ready.  Shortly after school was out I ordered some books.  Both of them were useful and interesting; although I found Cooking With Fire to be the more practical.  It was also a more compelling read.  I also ordered my peel.  However, I have found that I really also need a smaller one for turning the pizzas.  I have yet to order that and have been making do with a sturdy metal spatula.

The first baking was a disaster.  There was still sand falling off of the inside, and I made the pizzas too big and with too many toppings.  Emma wouldn't even eat hers.  The rest of us managed to find enough for supper, but most of what I made was a flop.  But now it's now the end of September and I've gotten comfortable enough that we can host parties.  I've just about got pizza down (make them individual size - light on the sauce and toppings).  I've also gotten good at overnight cooking (baked oatmeal, Indian pudding, baked beans, roasted tomatoes).  The first roast chicken was a flop and had to finish cooking inside, but the second one was divine.  Bread making is the last hurdle.  I've gotten better at it, but it's still not even close to the quality of the bread I make inside.  Luckily for me the two skills you need to have to be a successful bake oven cook are organization and the ability to plan ahead.  Suits me, and it sure was nice to be able to keep the heat out of the oven this summer.

In other, but yet related, news - I finally started to use the pressure cooker I bought for $10 one Black Friday over five years ago.  It always scared the hell out of me, but I exclusively canned using the pressure canner this summer and after that the baby pressure cooker wasn't so scary.  Now I'm mad that I waited so long.  I can have cooked beans on the table from dry ones in 20 minutes - without soaking.  I'm a convert.  What new task/tool have you avoided using and then wondered how you'd ever survived without it?  We sure are creatures of habit aren't we?

Building the Bake Oven

Ugh... you have to mix the clay, sand and hay with your feet!

Mixing also involves turning with the tarp.

Creative use of wood and brick to form the door (this is the sand mound).  It was then covered with wet newspaper and the clay, but somehow we didn't get pictures.

Cooking with the Bake Oven

Have everyone create their own pizza. Remind then to not use too much sauce or toppings -use polenta to keep it from sticking.

The second time I baked bread I started too late in the day.  I was pulling it out with a head lamp.  I decided to bake in bread pans, but then neglected to figure out how to transport hot pans full of bread up to the kitchen.  I melted the sides of this carrier a bit.  It was really hot and hard to carry.  I should have used fire gloves and carried them up one at a time.

The baked oatmeal was amazing.  It was similar to a dish I make in my crock pot during the winter, but it had this smoky overtone that just made it perfect.  It's probably my favorite recipe so far.  

Sunday, August 28, 2016


We had a fantastic summer.  At the beginning of the summer, both kids participated in the Blue Ridge Environmental Govenor's School and went to Camp Sequanota.  They had a blast and we enjoyed spending some time with our parents (The Woodsman took his mom on a road trip and I helped my dad paint an outbuilding at the farm).

Later in the summer we did some hiking, spent some quality time with two different groups of cousins, had a almost perfect week at the beach, and wrapped the summer up with an anniversary (19 this year) trip to the Adirondacks - without the kids.

Tomorrow is the beginning of the first full week of teacher in service, and next week all the crazy that is life with kids starts again.  I can no longer pretend that summer will continue forever.  Maybe that's a good thing - I probably wouldn't love and cherish this time and season apart as much if it never ended.

I hope your summer was as restful and renewing as mine, and that you have a great new year (I'm a teacher and a teacher's kid.  I don't care what the calendar says - the new year starts when school starts.)

Sunrise hike to Hawksbill (highest point in Shenandoah National Park)


This year was bittersweet.  Our school calendar is changing (starting August 1st next year) so no more August trips to the beach.  It;s hard to let that tradition go.  The beach just won't be the same in July.  We stayed at our favorite tiny beach bungalo again, and had almost perfect weather.  I cry every year when I leave and this year was no different.  I keep wishing we could go back and do it all again.

This is one of my favorite pics from this week.  They generally get along pretty well, but this week there was no fighting or fussing.   It was great to have all of that peace and harmony from the two of them.

The sunrise was outstanding and there were more shore birds than other years.

He's such a goofball.  He thought people would think - oh no, there's a head on the beach.
How did we wind up with an 8th grader - where has the time gone?


One of my favorite parts of this summer was seeing the kids spend extended time with cousins.  I really wished we lived closer.  They forged great bonds with family on both sides.  I enjoyed the time to reconnect too.  My 93 year old grandmother reminds me frequently to keep making memories - these cousin days were full of them.

My girl dotes on her younger cousins - she's still compensating for her disappointment in only being in a family of two.
The little girls return the affection because they enjoy having a big sister.  Smiles all around.

Cousins really like to play cards ( no worries - the beer jug on the table belonged to the adult cousins).


Early in our marriage, the Woodsman and I gave up buying anniversary and birthday presents for each other.  We travel instead.  We usually try to head somewhere North so that we can escape Virginia in August.  This year we went to the Adirondacks and spent three days enjoying the cold (high of 65 and a low of 37), paddling on the pristine (and motor free) lakes, hiking and sitting around the fire.  Coming back to full on summer (it was 85 at 9 PM when we pulled in last week) was tough.
Our view from our campsite at Lake Meacham

We're both fans of the Little House books so we made a visit to Almanzo Wilder's boyhood home in Malone, NY (site of the Farmer Boy book.)

A Pitcher Plant on a bog hike at Paul Smith's College

A lot of this area reminded us of Maine (the area near Baxter State Park).  There were loons,  little glacial lakes, bogs and mountains.  The only difference was that we didn't see any moose, but they said they were out there somewhere.

We love paddling in this area because the scenery is so beautiful, and because most of the lakes are too small for motorized craft so you don't have to worry about wake and noise from big boats.

Sunset v iews from our campsite

We hiked to the top of St. Regis Mountain and saw the St. Regis chain of lakes.

We then moved a little closer to home and found another gem - Brown Tract Pond.  It was smaller and very rustic, but perfect.  Another great end to a wonderful summer.