Today, September 11, is the day the Orthodox Church commemorates St. Euphrosynos the Cook! His life is a wonderful example to us of humility and long suffering (his full story is at the end of this post). I learned of St. Euphrosynos when we first became Orthodox because I saw his icon in many Orthodox kitchens. This is one in a vast treasury of customs that I have learned to cherish about the Church; having his icon in my kitchen reminds me to rejoice in what I consider my daily labors, especially when those labors seem to go unnoticed. Most days, my labors do go unnoticed because my children come right behind me and undo what I have just done! Can anyone else relate?! Fortunately, God gives us this work as a service and a ministry to our family, and hopefully we can see it as a benefit to our souls.

In school today, I read the story of St. Euphrosynos while the boys colored his icon. I was also able to find a few props around the house to jazz it up a bit. After reading, I asked what happened in the story and the boys said, “He cooked and then he ran away!” Haha! Luckily, the follow up was that he ran away because the big deal should have been about God and not him.

 

 

We then did a fun apple craft, which was inspired by Jeannie at Creative Hands. I ended up using laminating pouches instead of contact paper. The tissue paper didn’t stick as much as I would have liked, but we got it worked out in the end! 

The last thing we did was a scavenger hunt of sorts. It occurred to me that the kids see icons around our home every day, but they may not know who the saints are or why we have them. What a wonderful learning opportunity! Once I told them we had an icon of St. Euphrosynos in the house, it was a mad dash to find him! Of course they went to our prayer corner first…no luck. I had to coax them a bit with some clues, but we finally remembered that he was a cook and his favorite place was the kitchen! Eureka!

 

Next year, I will hopefully have purchased the book The Boy, A Kitchen, And His Cave: The Tale of St. Euphrosynos the Cookby Catherine K. Contopoulos to add to our celebration. I would also liked to have made a yummy apple dessert for tonight, but alas, the boys ate my apples during story time!!

St. Euphrosynos, pray for us!

Below is an account of the life of St. Euphrosynos from the OCA website :

Saint Euphrosynus the Cook was from one of the Palestinian monasteries, and his obedience was to work in the kitchen as a cook. Toiling away for the brethren, Saint Euphrosynus did not absent himself from thought about God, but rather dwelt in prayer and fasting. He remembered always that obedience is the first duty of a monk, and therefore he was obedient to the elder brethren.From the OCA website:

The patience of the saint was amazing: they often reproached him, but he made no complaint and endured every unpleasantness. Saint Euphrosynus pleased the Lord by his inner virtue which he concealed from people, and the Lord Himself revealed to the monastic brethren the spiritual heights of their unassuming fellow-monk.

One of the priests of the monastery prayed and asked the Lord to show him the blessings prepared for the righteous in the age to come. The priest saw in a dream what Paradise is like, and he contemplated its inexplicable beauty with fear and with joy.

He also saw there a monk of his monastery, the cook Euphrosynus. Amazed at this encounter, the presbyter asked Euphrosynus, how he came to be there. The saint answered that he was in Paradise through the great mercy of God. The priest again asked whether Euphrosynus would be able to give him something from the surrounding beauty. Saint Euphrosynus suggested to the priest to take whatever he wished, and so the priest pointed to three luscious apples growing in the garden of Paradise. The monk picked the three apples, wrapped them in a cloth, and gave them to his companion.

When he awoke in the early morning, the priest thought the vision a dream, but suddenly he noticed next to him the cloth with the fruit of Paradise wrapped in it, and emitting a wondrous fragrance. The priest, found Saint Euphrosynus in church and asked him under oath where he was the night before. The saint answered that he was where the priest also was. Then the monk said that the Lord, in fulfilling the prayer of the priest, had shown him Paradise and had bestown the fruit of Paradise through him, “ the lowly and unworthy servant of God, Euphrosynus.”

The priest related everything to the monastery brethren, pointing out the spiritual loftiness of Euphrosynus in pleasing God, and he pointed to the fragrant paradaisical fruit. Deeply affected by what they heard, the monks went to the kitchen, in order to pay respect to Saint Euphrosynus, but they did not find him there. Fleeing human glory, the monk had left the monastery. The place where he concealed himself remained unknown, but the monks always remembered that their monastic brother Saint Euphrosynus had come upon Paradise, and that they in being saved, through the mercy of God would meet him there. They reverently kept and distributed pieces of the apples from Paradise for blessing and for healing.

We have officially marked the beginning of our newest adventure: full time homeschooling for Pre-K and Kindergarten! I am so excited to be home with my littles, and for us to have this chance to learn together (which is exactly what it will be- Mama has a lot of learning to do!).

I started my planning with some scheduling and “classroom management” strategies. The boys and I all thrive on routine and it is so helpful to get the most out of our school day. I have found that so many behavioral issues are taken care of automatically when the boys know what is coming up in our day, and they even take ownership and do the next things on their own sometimes! Yay for progress! The “schedule” below is for our average school day. Now- it is a rare day when this schedule actually happens. I think of it more as my guideline, so when we get off track I know where I should be and can jump back in. As we have begun our first few weeks, I can see already the need for some possible tweaking, but time will tell. I laminated copies of this schedule and put them as the first page in the boys’ school binders. We also have one on the fridge for easy reference.

On the behavioral side of things, I want to begin with a clear system that is objective and consistent. Again, I want the boys to feel like they have control of their behavior and that they can always improve as the day goes on. The system I liked best is the color-coded clothespin chart. I found some ideas on Pinterest and then made my own (see below). This starts the boys out on green at the beginning of the day, but gives room both up and down for them to travel according to their behavior. Most of the charts I found gave consequences at the bottom, but not so many included rewards at the top. We decided a few extra minutes of screen time would be a good reward after a great day. We are very intentional with our screen time during the day, so this is something small that the boys really enjoy. Even if they get down to red, they can bring themselves back up and finish off the day on a good note. This makes it much easier for me to handle because I can give them one warning about moving their name and they know what that means and where they stand. It has worked great so far! As soon as Daddy gets home, they tell him what color they are on and the lowest/highest colors they have gotten to that day. Yay for systems that work!

 

Now for the actual curriculum- I have been working hard with my friend Marleigh (who has 2 little ones) to collaborate on great material for our kiddos. Knowing that we have younger siblings coming down the line, we want to have something that works with multiple levels at the same time. All of our kids are young at this point, so the levels need to be thematically similar so we can work with all of the kids together. I am finding that both boys want to do all of the activities, even though there is a two year difference between them. Thematic links are important here to keep a consistency to our week. The base curriculum that we chose is BFIAR (Before Five in a Row) and FIAR (Five in a Row). We like FIAR because it is comprised of thematic units based around well-loved individual children’s books. It is called Five in a Row because you read the same story five days in a row and then do supplementary activities. This is a very flexible curriculum and could actually be used for the first few years of Elementary school if one desired to do so. Our plan is to use this through Kindergarten, and then switch to a classical model in the First grade.

Once we figured out the base curriculum, we set out to combine that with some other elements that are important to both of us and our families. We now have a crazy spreadsheet of thematically matched BFIAR/FIAR units with additions of letters, numbers, shapes, poetry, supplementary books, and Orthodox elements! Both of our families are Orthodox Christian, so we want to include our faith in our everyday school. One of the things I am most excited about homeschooling is being able to work our schedule around the church services and make them a top priority for our children.

We are also lucky enough to have an Orthodox Homeschool Co-Op based in our church, so that will be our school every Friday. It is a wonderful opportunity for the kids to learn in a classroom setting and for great fellowship! My friend Marleigh is heading up the Pre-School class this year, so Aidan will be able to have an extension of what we learned that week! Finn will be in the older class; he will get to do some Science and Arts/Crafts. I have been asked to teach the high schoolers in a Writer’s Workshop, and I am excited to keep one foot in teaching the big kids! (They are assuredly less excited!)

My hope is to blog our activities on a weekly basis. Though I have a lot of ideas, this will be a year of experiment and changing to fit what works and what doesn’t. I will be including our Orthodox observances as we go, along with some ideas to celebrate our wonderful traditions! Wish us luck!

 

 

Even though I won’t be in the classroom this year, I thought I would re-share this free printable I created last year. I was never able to find a planner that fit all of my needs, so I created my own! This is a 2 page per week format and has space for current plans as well as looking into the future. Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD HERE

This is the time of year when teachers all across the country are gearing up for a new school year. The adrenaline rushes in the middle of the night when you realize school starts in 8 days, along with the stress of getting everything ready on time, not to mention those evil “teacher dreams” (showing up on the first day with nothing ready and 30 kids staring at you) make for a difficult few weeks! Normally, I would be in the throws of the back to school preparations, but this year will be different.

It seems like God has put our family on a bit of a roller coaster the last few years as far as my ability to stay home with the littles. Part way through last school year, Gideon got a new job with the company in charge of our digital curriculum for the district. This jump was a bit of a balancing act, as he couldn’t make his official move until a replacement teacher was found. In January, he was able to transition completely into his new position and has been greatly enjoying it! The main reason we decided for him to take the job is that it will allow me (God Willing) to stay home and homeschool the kids! We tried this on one teacher salary when our second child was born, but Oklahoma is now at the very bottom of the barrel for teacher pay…. so that only lasted the year. The outlook for this go around is very positive, and I am hoping it can be a long-term scenario!

My teacher brain is already in full gear, as Finn will start preschool this year. The enormity of what it means to provide my children’s education has been settling on me a bit, but I am extremely grateful to center their lives around the Orthodox Church and the beautiful rhythms it provides for our year. Though I would love to jump in with school right away, there is one not-so-little event impending: little sister’s arrival!! I am 38 weeks pregnant and little miss could arrive at any time! I have decided to wait until about October (after my 40 days’ rest) to begin schooling. Hopefully by then we will have found some sort of new rhythm with all three children and we can get down to business! I will be writing about our upcoming adventures, both with school and becoming a family of 5, so stick around! Glory to God for all things!

Wish us luck! 🙂

One of the best and most fundamental elements to our little homestead is our chickens. We are in the process of starting a new flock because, unfortunately, the last flock we already had met a not-so-nice ending. We raised 12 chicks last summer and were able to integrate them with the 4 that were already in the coop. Our original coop was back behind the house, and while that was convenient, the chickens were not doing much to help us in the garden. We decided to move the coop down to the hill and integrate the flock with the gardening process. The idea was to have the coop in the middle of a two-sided garden; the chickens would ready one patch by scratching, fertilizing, and eating bugs, and then we would switch the plots the next year. Then the chickens would get a new area while having helped us to prepare the new garden area. Gideon moved the chicken coop down the hill and began the process of modifying it to fit the hill.

Things were beginning to shape up well, but we had a vacation planned back to our hometown in California and we were gone for 2 whole weeks. Gideon’s stepdad was gracious enough to come watch the chickens for us while we were gone, but none of us knew how much that was asking! Unfortunately, there had not been enough time to move the coop and secure it as much as it needed to be down on the open hill. While we were away, a red fox (we think) decided that our flock would make a great meal project. Every night, the fox would attack, leaving a very unsightly scene in his wake. Gideon’s stepdad tried to make patches as best he could to fortify the dwelling, but it was not enough. He even stayed up until 4 am to try and catch the darn thing! Despite the attempts, the sly fox had his way and feasted on all but ONE of our 16 chickens.

Needless to say, we were pretty bummed about the loss. Our egg production had just started in full swing and we went from almost a dozen a day to nothing. We knew right away that we wanted chickens, so the first order of business was to rework the chicken coop and the fencing. Gideon did an amazing job rebuilding the coop (and even adding some square footage!).

The chicken coop “before”:

The new and improved “Chicken Chalet”:

Gideon took all of the chicken wire off the bottom area of the coop and replaced it with fence boards. He then decked out the bottom of the coop completely so no critters can get in from underneath He also made a pop-out nesting area!

The ramp is now on hinges so it will go all the way up to make room for cleaning. There is a largennnew door on the front also to make cleaning easier, and we will have doors on each side to let the girls out to whichever side of the garden they are working on. Right now the door is cut on one side, but the locking contraption is pretty complicated. We have been discussing different ways to make the daily chore of letting the chickens in and out a bit easier since they are down on the hill now. Gideon has been researching automatic doors (I know, fancy, right?!) and we finally settled on an option. It works on a photocell, so it will open and close with the sun. It just came in today, so it will be ready in time for the new chicks to move into their digs!

Speaking of chicks, we got our new flock on Friday! We bought 16 chicks of 4 different varieties. We have 4 Black Sexlinks, one Barred Rock, 5 White Rock and 6 Brown Leghorns. We have only had the Leghorns in the past, so this will be a good experiment. The chicks have all settled into the brooding box and seem very content. Here is to another try and a hopefully successful year of chicken raising!

 

I spend the first part of my school day looking forward to lunch. It isn’t so much that I need a break from my students (though there are days) but more so that I know that within that little lunch bag lies a yummy sandwich made from the best homemade bread out there. We have been making this bread for about 3 years now. Every so often we have had to buy bread from the store due to a lack of time, and each time it has confirmed for us that there is no going back; this bread is a game changer.

When we first started, we were buying flour from the grocery store. We quickly realized, however, that going bulk would be a better option for us. We purchase our flour in 50-pound sacks from Azure Standard. If you have never heard of them, I would recommend a look. We have done some tweaking of the recipe over the years and have settled on a half/half mix of whole wheat flour and white flour. It gives all of the good nutrients without being too “whole wheat” in the taste.

We make our dough in a bread maker. We make our dough only, we don’t  bake the bread in it. We have found that baking the bread in the oven makes much better loaves – and let’s be honest – the smell of baking bread is one of the best parts of the process! If you don’t  have a bread maker, you can make the dough by hand, just use the same ingredients and look up the process for the kneading and rest times.

So without further ado… the recipe for honey wheat sandwich bread:

This recipe makes 2 loaves at a time. If you only want 1 loaf, be sure to half the recipe.

Ingredients

2 cups of warm water

4 dollops of honey (we buy ours by the gallon from Azure Standard)

2 teaspoons instant yeast

6 cups flour (3 whole wheat/3 white)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons salt

Place water and honey, and yeast in the bread maker. Let the yeast dissolve for a few minutes to react with the honey. Next, add the oil, flour, and salt. We premix the 2 types of flour and the salt to get a good consistency through the loaves. Start the dough cycle on the machine, ours takes 1 hour and 50 minutes including a pre-heat time.

 

When the machine is finished, separate the dough into 2 greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place for at least 30 minutes.

We usually let the dough rise until it just crests the pan. The bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. We actually bake ours for 32 minutes because the extra time gives it that beautiful golden brown finish. You will need to play with your timing on your own oven. When the loaves are done, turn them out immediately onto a cooling rack. Resist the urge to cut into them right away! Remember, once you open this Pandora’s “bread” Box, there is no going back! Enjoy!

I recall a conversation that we had with our priest a few years ago about why so many people have gotten away from self-sufficiency. His opinion is that modern society has taught us that we CAN’T do things for ourselves. I have pondered this for a while, and it makes sense. We have grocery stores with pre-packaged meat and we have no connection to where it came from. We have mechanics and Jiffy Lube places that change the oil in our cars, and landscape companies that cut the lawn so we don’t have to worry about it.  Today we have grocery stores and fast food restaurants; not only do we not have to grow our food, but we can get anything we want within minutes. It would seem that we have evolved as a society and that things are just easier now- but what have we lost in the process?

When we bought our house 3 years ago, we decided that we were going to make use of our 1 acre and live from it as much as possible. We also  wanted to learn how do to as many things for ourselves as we could; it is important to us to show our boys that we can grow our own food and bake our own bread, among other things. The idea of being good stewards of what we have been given goes right along with our Orthodox faith, and we want them steeped in that as much as possible. We have a long way to go as far as self-sufficiency is concerned, but we have been working on some routines which are putting us on the right track.

One of the simple routines that we implemented about 2 years ago is baking our own bread every week. This was the slippery slope that made us want to do everything ourselves! There is absolutely nothing like taking a loaf of bread out of the oven and buttering a slice to devour while it is still warm- delicious! The fact that we know exactly what goes into the bread and that there isn’t a laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients is also a great comfort to us. We regularly make 2 different types of bread- honey wheat sandwich loaves and french crusty bread; the sandwich bread is our go to for weekly lunches, and we love the crusty bread for just about everything else! We have passed the recipe to many friends who now make their own bread and vow to never go back. I will give them each their own post with recipes and pictures, so you can see how easy it is! The honey wheat loaf will be up first!

What are some things that your family does to get back to basics? I would love to hear from you!

Greetings everyone!

I apologize for the lack of posts within the last year; it turns out that one Oklahoma teaching salary alone does not quite fill the budget gap to allow me to stay home with the boys. We had to make the tough decision at the beginning of last school year for me to go back to work. Fortunately, Gideon and I were both able to get jobs in our little town and had a great year giving back to our community!

We are working behind the scenes to diversify our earning potential, and I will be posting as things go forward. In the meantime, and now that I am on summer, I hope to get back to some fun blog posts and show you all what is happening on our little hill!

First up… BEER!!

Yes, you heard me right! Beer! Though I don’t drink beer myself, my husband is quite the aficionado and has been brewing his own for the last seven years. He has written a guest post about the process and the hopes of one day being able to help support the family with this endeavor! We are still working on a great name for the brewery… comment if you have a suggestion for us! Enjoy!

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I have been brewing now for about seven years or so, and have appreciated good beer for much longer than that. In Oklahoma, good beer is not an easy thing to come by. With strange regulations left over from the prohibition era such as 1) alcoholic beverages over 3.2% are prohibited to sell in grocery stores, 2) liquor stores are prohibited from refrigerating their stock (UPDATE: This law JUST got changed a few months ago), and 3) liquor stores MUST be closed on Sundays, voting days, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. So, if you are planning on doing something over a holiday weekend, make sure to get your REAL beer or adult beverage of choice on Saturday!

In addition to finding good beer conveniently, I have found that the beer that is sold here tends to be really expensive! Mostly, that comes from taxes imposed from the State “sin tax.” Additionally, in Oklahoma all sales of alcohol have to go through a distributor. What this means is that small, local craft brewers or wineries can’t sell their products directly to the public (or for that matter sell directly to a liquor store). They must go through a licensed distributor. However, this costs money, and of course, the distributor adds a percentage on top of whatever the brewer is charging. Thus, by the time your beverage of choice gets to the shelf, there have been several additions of taxes and rate hikes.
All this to say, Oklahoma has driven me to drink! Or rather, driven me to MAKE my own drink!
One of the things that I really enjoy doing is learning how to do something for myself: make bread, grow vegetables, make ice cream, sew, build things, fix things, work on my own vehicles… I have my dad to really thank for this trait/mindset. He is definitely someone who I look up to, who has always tried to figure out how to do things on his own. Between my dad and my stepdad (who has always found creative ways of doing things), I was doomed from the beginning to start my fiddling and meddling and puttering days early on!
Initially, I started brewing as most people do: with extracts. Malted barley (or other types of grain) is allowed to soak like tea at 155 degrees for an hour. During this time, a process called sacchrification takes place where the complex carbohydrates break down into simple sugars. In order to make an extract, this solution is boiled down in factories and made into a syrup.
So, I used these syrups with good success for several years. It was effective, allowed me to make beer at home, and was faster than the “all grain” method. However, the more I brewed, the more I saw the cost difference between extract and all grain. Due to the processing, extract brewing is more expensive. Also, while it does allow you to shorten the brew time by a couple of hours, it does limit the control you have over the viscosity of the beer. In all grain brewing, the brewer keeps the grain at 155. However, if you change that temperature, you can also change the viscosity (or mouth-feel) of the beer.
So, it wasn’t long before I began to look into brewing with all grain. I have now been brewing all grain for about two years, and I love it! I wish I had done it sooner! While it does take a bit longer, I can make my beer significantly cheaper, and with a great deal of control.
For those of you who might think about getting into brewing, here is my current setup:
The beauty of brewing is that at its heart, it is truly simple. The key is to keep things clean. By God’s grace, I have never had a beer that has been bad due to contamination. I have made beer that I have been less than pleased with, but that was due to me being adventurous in a recipe, and the recipe not turning out as good as I had hoped.
While my brewery is not yet complete, it works very well as is, and produces good results. The hot liquor tank (big pot on the left) also doubles as my boil kettle. Essentially, I boil a lot of water and then transfer that hot water into the mash tun (the water cooler). Next, I add the crushed malted grain to the hot water and wait an hour for the sacchrification process to take place. Meanwhile, have a beer. Then, I begin to slowly drain the wort out of the mash tun and into another vessel (eventually I will get a separate boil kettle for this step. In the meantime, I transfer it into a bucket and then back into the hot liquor tank to double as my boil kettle). Once I have 6 gallons or so, I can begin the boil.
(Inside the mash tun–grain and hot water)
(Here I am sparging (draining and straining) the wort from the grains directly into my boil kettle)
(That is a lovely color!!)
(My goodness that is a dark beer! Like a good Imperial Stout, it sucks the light out of the room!!)
So, with six gallons of wort on the stove, the boil begins. This is where the fun happens… You can change the characteristic of beer by adding different ingredients. Hops are almost always added for their preservation properties, as well as their bittering flavors. By adding hops at different times during the boil, the brewer can achieve different characteristics. For example, if you want to add the bittering flavors of the hops, add them at the beginning of the boil. If you want to add the flavor of the hops (the flowery, citrusy, or piney flavors), add the hops during the middle of the boil. If you want only the SMELL of the hops in the beer, then you add them right at the last. None of the flavors or bittering will be imparted to the beer.
Some of my favorite beers are the Belgian variety. They will add coriander, orange peel, candied sugars… all sorts of things! This is the creative cooking part of making beer where you can really play with recipes and have fun. So, for one hour the wort is boiled with the hops added at specific intervals. Over the hour, about a gallon of water evaporates, leaving you with approximately 5 gallons of beer.
But, this is one of the most critical parts… The boiled liquid must be chilled to around 70 degrees. But this must be done quickly in order to minimize the possibility of contamination of bacteria or wild yeast. This is where I use a wort chiller. Essentially, it is a long copper tube that is immersed in the wort. I then hook up a hose to one end of it, and run cold water through it, thus chilling the wort. It is simple and pretty effective. Once the beer is around 70-75 degrees, I transfer the beer into a sanitized bucket or carboy. At this temperature range, it is safe to add the specific yeast for the style of beer that is being made. I like Wyeast and have had really good results with their products. I am sure there are others, but their consistency has been top notch. A water lock is placed on top of the carboy or bucket that allows gasses to escape, but does not allow anything in.
(Here is a picture of my carboy with Peach Porter Wheat beer. Notice the water lock on top)
It takes about a week for most beers to complete the krebs cycle to break down the sugars into alcohol. Most beers benefit by transferring again to another carboy and waiting another week. It allows for a full fermentation and flavors to settle in. After the two weeks, it is time to bottle (or to keg). There is still active yeast in the beer, and to bottle condition the beer, I usually add 3/4 cup corn sugar solution to the beer. This will activate the yeast and allow for just enough carbonation to take place. I then transfer to bottles, cap, and wait another week or so. Then, chill, crack open, and enjoy!
 
My kind family has encouraged my hobby and all members truly have supported it! My brother and wife have helped with my kegging setup, my dad with my mash paddle, my mom with special glassware, and everyone else with drinking it! 🙂 I hope to continue brewing and improving and expanding. Maybe one day soon I can do it on a larger scale. However, for now, I am very pleased with what I can make, and will continue to brew on our Little Hill. Cheers!
 




Writing about the garden requires more experience than I have… so my darling husband has agreed to give you an introductory tour. We are fairly new at this gardening thing, so any suggestions or feedback is always appreciated! Enjoy!

Contrary to my wife’s better judgment, she has graciously agreed to let me guest blog on her site. Today, I’d like to share a little about our garden, what we are attempting to achieve, and how we are going about doing it.

First of all here are some of the things we have planted so far this year:
Long Term (perennial) plantings:
            Peach Trees (planted last year, replaced one this year)
            Blackberry bushes (Planted last year)
            Asparagus (planted crowns last year, they are producing now)
            Strawberries (planted this year)
           
Short Term (annual) plantings:
            Sweet Peas
            Onions
            Potatoes
            Leeks
Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to plant my leafy greens and brassicas this year in spring: lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, etc. If only that pesky thing called a job wouldn’t get in the way! However, we are exploring the idea of planting some lettuce & spinach inside during the heat of summer.
It’s now time to get my summer crops in the ground. We are planning on planting:
            Tomatoes
            Yellow Summer squash
            Zucchini
            Sweet potatoes
            Cucumbers
            Cantaloupe
One of my problems is that when I do something, I like to do it all the way! Go big, or go home! It gets me into trouble frequently… Anyway, the first year, we were able to successfully grow most everything we wanted to. We had some trees die (plums and a couple of peach) as well as blueberries. However, everything else that we planted in the garden grew miraculously well! In retrospect, I should have listened to the advice of my priest. Novel idea, right? His suggestion was to choose the areas I wanted to plant, and cover it with plastic to kill off the weeds underneath. This would have saved us some labor, but we also wouldn’t have had all that wonderful produce!
This is our second year in our little house on the hill, and we have loved the fact that we own a little over an acre of land. We have a beautiful view from our house, and while the hill provides a beautiful view, it also provides a challenging topography for farming and gardening! One of the challenges we have here is the soil. Our soil is quite sandy and rocky. Where it isn’t sandy/rocky, it has veins of clay. Much of the land has sandstone bluffs, and we are fortunate to have a beautiful example on the backside of our house. In addition to the sandy/rocky and clay-filled soil, the native weeds and grasses are a bear to deal with! So…. what to do?
We initially began to amend the soil with more organic matter–manure, compost, and mulch. The sandy soil is quick draining, so it is important to add more vegetable matter in the soil to help retain moisture and provide nutrients. The clay, on the other hand, is so dense that it does not allow air for the roots to grow. The good thing about this, though, is that with yearly additions of mulch and compost, we can fairly easily improve the soil. However, the quantity of mulch that we need has proven to be HUGE!
The overall size of the garden at this point is probably about 1/4 of an acre., and much of that has to be mulched.
We have made two big changes to the garden this year, both of which are an attempt to reduce mowing/weeding. The first thing we have done has been to widen the layout of the garden to facilitate easier access. By making every other row about 5′ wide, I can now drive my mower towing the garden trailer behind between the rows. This allows me to mulch easily. Secondly, we are putting down weed cloth between the rows and mulching over them. This already has helped tremendously in keeping down the grasses and weeds. Hopefully, by the time we are finished with laying down the weed cloth, we will have reduced our labors. We shall see!
Cheers!
Gideon

Hello Everyone! I apologize for my recent absence… I was bringing new life into the world! Aidan Matthew was born on February 27th (10 days overdue). He came in at a whopping 10 pounds, 3 ounces! We have enjoyed the last 8 weeks getting to know one another, hosting a rotating door of family from California, and celebrating Pascha, the Feast of feasts! What a blessing!

We named Aidan after St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, keeping with our Celtic names. His middle name, Matthew, is in honor of our little chapel and its patron, St. Matthew the Apostle. We feel so blessed to be a part of this parish family.

Here is a little about St. Aidan. Hopefully now I will be able to get back to sharing what is happening with our life on this little hill. 🙂

*Photo courtesy of Katie Cariker Photography

 ST. AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE

St Bede (May 27), in his ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH PEOPLE praises Aidan for his humility and piety, recommending him as a model for other bishops and priests to follow. He was not attached to the things of this world, nor did he seek earthly treasures. Whenever he received gifts from the king or from rich men, he distributed them to the poor. On Wednesdays and Fridays he would fast from all food until the Ninth Hour (about 3 P.M.), except during the paschal season.

From Lindisfarne, St Aidan traveled all over Northumbria, visiting his flock and establishing missions. St Oswald, who knew Gaelic from the time he and his family were exiled to Iona, acted as an interpreter for Bishop Aidan, who did not speak English. Thus, the king played an active role in the conversion of his people.

One year, after attending the services of Pascha, King Oswald sat down to a meal with Bishop Aidan. Just as the bishop was about to bless the food, a servant came in and informed the king that a great number of needy folk were outside begging for alms. The king ordered that his own food be served to the poor on silver platters, and that the silver serving dishes be broken up and distributed to them.There is a charming illustration of this incident in the thirteenth century Berthold Missal in New York’s Pierpont Morgan Library (Morgan MS 710, fol. 101v). Aidan, deeply moved by St Oswald’s charity, took him by the right hand and said, “May this hand never perish.” According to Tradition, St Oswald’s hand remained incorrupt for centuries after his death. St Bede says that the hand was kept in the church of St Peter at Bamburgh, where it was venerated by all. The present location of the hand, if it still survives, is not known.

St Oswald was killed in battle against the superior forces of King Penda on August 5, 642 at a place called Maserfield. He was only thirty-eight years old. St Aidan was deeply grieved by the king’s death, but his successor St Oswin (August 20) was also very dear to him.King Oswin once gave St Aidan a horse and a cart for his journeys (the bishop usually traveled on foot). Soon after this, Bishop Aidan met a beggar and gave him the horse and cart. The king heard of this and was disturbed by it. He asked St Aidan why he had given the royal gift away when there were ordinary horses in the stables which were more suitable for a beggar. Aidan rebuked him, asking if the king regarded the foal of a mare more highly than the Son of God. At first, he did not understand. Then he fell at the bishop’s feet, weeping tears of repentance. Asking for forgiveness, Oswin promised never again to judge St Aidan’s charitable deeds.

St Aidan raised the king to his feet, declaring that he had never seen a king who was so humble. He prophesied that Oswin would soon depart from this life, since the people did not deserve such a ruler. His prophecy was soon fulfilled, for St Oswin was murdered at Gilling on August 20, 651. St Aidan departed to the Lord on August 31, less than two weeks later. He died at Bamburgh, by the west wall of the church. The beam on which he was leaning to support himself still survives, even though the church was twice destroyed by fire. The beam may still be seen in the ceiling of the present church, above the baptismal font.

On the day St Aidan died, St Cuthbert (March 20) was a young man tending his master’s sheep. Looking up, Cuthbert saw a vision of angels bearing someone’s soul to heaven in a sphere of fire. Later, he learned that Bishop Aidan had died at the very hour that he had seen the vision.

At first, the holy bishop Aidan was buried at Lindisfarne on the right side of the altar in the church of St Peter. In 664 the Synod of Whitby declared that all the churches of Britain must follow Roman practices, and that Celtic customs were to be suppressed. St Colman (February 18), the third Bishop of Lindisfarne, was unable to accept this decision. Therefore, he decided to retire to Iona, taking the bones of St Aidan with him. Celtic customs survived on Iona until the eighth century.

*Information from the Orthodox Church in America website (oca.org)

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