Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Year End Wrap-Up

Getting back to the simple life continues to bring much enjoyment.
Six months later, I finally got that fleece spun up, with the help of a friend's spinning wheel!
I haven't gotten motivated to knit anything with this yarn yet - doesn't look like much, but hand carding the wool and then learning to spin did take a fair bit of time, and after all that work I want to be sure I know what I'm doing!
Meanwhile, I tackled another craft challenge - a hand cranked Gearhardt Circular Sock Knitting Machine built in 1924!
With the help of this cylinder of needles I can whip out a pair of socks in about 2 hours, compared to many more hours of hand knitting. No wonder it gained great popularity in the late 1800s and early 1900s! It even played an important role in the battle against trenchfoot in World War I, helping to provide extra pairs socks. Today it brings much enjoyment to knitters, some who like me, stumbled across one of these neglected machines at a garage sale, only to find a whole subculture of CSM knitters who hold regional "crank-ins" and even a national annual conference!  So far I've even been able to sell enough cozy wool socks to support this hobby!

One of the best part of all these crafts is the friendships being built with other women at our Fiber Arts Group, and it's a privilege to teach the homeschool kids too!

This fall we have also been working on our new business venture - Honeyberries! (or Haskap as they are called in Canada & Japan). We are importing plants from Canada for resale, as well as for an orchard on our acreage. Dubbed "Blueberry of the Prairie", this tasty, healthy honeysuckle berry fits right into our desire for a healthy lifestyle.
Check out our business site at for more information.

Jim aquired a 1950something Alice Chalmers WD-45 tractor to push snow and for future use on our acreage.

Jim also prepared a lot for bulding a small house in the spring.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

August Update

August began with the Clearwater County Fair. This year I entered more horticulture items than crafts. I picked wild chokecherries, highbush cranberries, and gooseberries from the woods, which all got blue ribbons. The carrots were planted pretty early, the first week of April, and it paid off with a purple Grand Champion ribbon! Bugs Bunny would love them!

My sweater got a red (2nd place) ribbon, but you should have seen the grand champion sweater - a Norwegian pattern designed by the knitter herself! Always great to see talent like that!

Now, as for the garden, this picture taken in the middle of August shows how well it grew. The rains and heat came at the right time to produce an abundant harvest of tomatoes, beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes and corn.

Jim finished the facelift of this house (I'll post an "After" picture when I get one) and has done several other smaller jobs for various people.

We had three sets of visitors during August as well - a couple from Michigan and another from Saskatoon who contacted us through the Mennonite Your Way Hospitality Roster that we joined (no, you don't even have to be Mennonite to join! Just be hospitable!), and then friends from southern Minnesota who also volunteer with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Arizona.

The other activity we have been involved with can be found at

We shall see what September brings!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Solar Soup

With another warm sunny day before me, I got motivated to make a solar oven. Armed with a sharp butcher knife and duct tape I set out on my mission - to construct an oven made out of materials found in the junk heap behind the shed:

2" thick hard styrofoam panels - check
glass panel from a window - check
black rubber tarp - check

Within short order I had a solar oven assembled with an approximately 30 degree slant (per one of the web sites I visited beforehand). I discovered that duct tape doesn't stick very well to dirty pink styrofoam, propping the sides up with some old boards works for now. I then lined the inside with the black rubber tarp, and threw in a solar windshield shade for some additional power.

Next to go in was the food:

Bernis' Home Grown Soup recipe:
dehydrated onions, carrots, tomatoes, tomatillo
chopped up potatoe
chicken bullion cube

Wheat Montana Cookie Recipe:
3 eggs, beaten well
1 t vanilla
1 c raisins soaked for one hour in egg mixture

1 c butter, beaten with:
1 c brown sugar
1 c white sugar   (how about honey next time)

2 1/2 c white flour (I'd like to try whole wheat pastry flour next time)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 c 7 grain Wheat Montana oatmeal mixture (oats, hard and soft wheat, spelt, triticale, rye, flax)

Are we getting hungry yet?!

Within 15 minutes, at 11:00 a.m. and with an outside temp of 73 degrees, the solar oven had heated to 155F. An hour later the air temp inside the oven was 170F and the cookies were almost done. The temp dropped quickly when I opened the lid to check the cookies, so I left them in another hour, and OH OH OH were they ever good. I don't know if it was the anticipation, the fresh air, or if solar cooking truly does bring out the flavour, but they truly were much tastier than the oven baked ones I prepared earlier in the morning.

With such good success, I set some rice into the cooker along with a cast iron fry pan containing a couple of fillets of fish. I think I'm hooked on solar cooking.

There is lots of good info on the web, such as at and there are organizations that are promoting solar cooking internationally such as the Minnesota based

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fair Isle Sweaters

My big project this winter was knitting a Fair Isle sweater. Then I decided to knit a second one before I forgot how! For the colored part of the patterns I pretty much made it up as I went along by getting ideas from other sweaters and patterns. I discovered that Fair Isle is very forgiving. I was never sure what I was going to come out with until it was all finished! It took a few trials and errors to get the hang of what combination of colors would go together for a good balance and contrast, but I am pleased with the final results. Just don't ask me to repeat it!
My ultimate goal is to make a Norwegian sweater with snowflakes! Anyone out there have a favorite pattern they would like to share?
I must give credit for this year's project to my dear friend Anjali's mom - Kanta Sethi - who inspired me through the gift of a sweater about twenty years ago before I ventured off to Colombia, South America. That sweater travelled with me pretty much everywhere. It always seemed to be the right weight and warmth for any but the hottest climates, and always warmed my heart to wear this loving gift. It reminds me of the clothes and sandals that did not wear out as the children of Israel travelled through the wilderness, for no matter how many times I washed and wore this sweater, it seemed indestructable! I continue to get compliments on the original sweater! Thank you again, Anjali & Mama Sethi for your many kindnesses over the years.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

ABC Garden Tour

Last nite when the rain broke I went for a walk around the yard to record how many plants had made their appearance in April. As I named the files I saw I had "A" through "D" and then a few more!

Asparagus - 2nd year - next year we can eat it and other sprouts that hopefully spring up around it.
Bleeding Heart - Thanks Dad, for this special gift a couple of years ago, in memory of Grandma Eliason who had them around her white farm home in Saskatchewan.
Chokecherry - just about ready to blossom at the entrance to our acreage.
Daffodils are the first flowers to show their pretty faces!
Ferns unfurling their pronds.
Iris, chives and poppies, as well as a few other unknowns.
Lilacs - at least I got a picture. The deer trimed every single bud off last nite :-{
Mayflowers and daisies
Rhubarb and winter onions are some of the first plants to emerge in spring.
I awoke on April 29th to find the Saskatoon (Juneberry) bush covered in blossoms!
I got serious about weed control this year and put down some "plastic mulch" over the strawberries. Recycled lumberyard plastic that they take off of lumber piles works just fine.

I have a friend who likes to garden, but says, "I don't like to weed, so I eat them instead!"
She has a doctorate in naturopathic medicine, so she does know what she's talking about!
It was quite funny this spring as I saw my own attitude toward weeds take a u-turn after attending a talk that she gave at a local garden club on natural herbal detoxification. I have already made up a brew of "organic, homegrown" dandelion and burdock tea! It turns a pretty green color and it quite palatable accompanied by a dab of honey! But I'm still going to pursue plastic mulching as there are plenty of weeds in the wild to eat!
Gen 1:11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth tender sprouts (the herb seeding seed and the fruit tree producing fruit after its kind, whose seed is in itself) upon the earth; and it was so.
Gen 1:12 And the earth brought forth tender sprouts, the herb yielding seed after its kind, and the tree producing fruit after its kind, whose seed was in itself. And God saw that it was good. (MKJV)

The everlasting God Yahweh is the
Creator of the ends of the earth
Isaiah 40:28

 For a fascinating study on the Hebrew meanings of the names of God see Jeff A. Benner's book, "His Name is One"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Getting down to the dirt, lyeing and fleecing

Baby perennials

Tomatoes, sunflowers, cabbage, squash, etc.

I confess, I got spring fever early this year. With the snow disappearing and warm sunny days arriving well before the end of March, I first got out my seeds just to look and plan, then I acquired a little seedling hot-house, and before you knew it, I had sunflowers and tomatoes bursting forth. Then came the cabbage and squash. I knew I was just setting myself up for tall skinny plants but I told myself, "I'm just testing the seeds to see if they're good."  Scientific experimentation is always a handy rationalization. But the truth of the matter is that it really was good medicine for spring fever, and who knows, maybe some of these early bloomers will actually make it and produce a bumper crop!

After I got into the dirt, I guess I realized I needed to clean up my act so signed up for an Adult Ed class on Soapmaking. I'll tell you the ingredients, but the secret lyes in the potentially life-threatening process of mixing them in the correct order: Crisco vegetable shortening, coconut oil, olive oil, water, lye, wax crayon for color, fragrance. (Yes, drink the lye or start a kitchen fire with the oil and your life will be significantly altered! Other than that, just be careful and everything should be all right!) And what is that strange shape in the middle? A chicken shaped cookie cutter produced that little clucker! I learned that soap is easily carved after 24 hours and best left to air dry for three weeks so as to harden more.

All that did not keep me from getting into a lifestyle of fleecing. I was hanging around with others who were doing it, and before I knew it, I had (legally) aquired my own Shetland fleece (for $5). After a good washing, it was on to "carding" to separate the matted strands (normally using brushes, but a comb will do in a pinch), and finally, taking up that drop spindle, giving it a spin, and watching the wool turn into knittable yarn. Amazing.

This simple fleece, this wool as it comes sheared off the sheep, pretty much in one loose but matted piece of dirty fluff, also served to enhance my biblical understanding! The first story that vividly came to mind was that of Gideon.
Jdg 6:36 And Gideon said to God, If You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said,
Jdg 6:37 behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the grain-floor. And if the dew is on the fleece only, and dry upon all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.
Jdg 6:38 And it was so. For he rose up early in the morning and gathered the fleece together, and wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.

But the most meaningful thought came during carding - that extremely tedious yet strangely soothing process of transforming tangles into clouds of softness, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29)

Friday, March 5, 2010

From Arizona to Minnesota

 Guess the number of Skittles - or Languages

The smallest amount represents the languages of the world that have the entire Bible translated in their language, so English is in this jar along with 450 others.
The second jar represents the language communities which have access to the NT in their heart language: 1,185. 
The fullest jar represents:
  • Approximately 2000 translation programs currently in progress
  • plus 2,200+ languages without any of the Bible, that are in need of a translation to begin
Wycliffe Bible Translators estimates the world population to be about 6,500 million people, with 350 million that don't have Scripture in their language.
We spent five weeks volunteering at a Wycliffe Center just north of Tucson, Arizona. Here I am with a couple of Mexican missionaries.

Bibiana and Luis are leaders of The National Union of Indigenous Translators in Mexico, which currently has about 100 members. My parents have known Bibiana since she was a teenager, were involved in her ministry as she attended Bible School and as she continued on promoting Bible Translation in Mexico. We were happy to have the director Luis, who speaks Zapotec along with Spanish and English, stay overnight with us during their short visit to the Wycliffe Center.

 The view from the doorstep of the mobile home where we stayed, just north of Tucson, AZ. 
From shingling roofs to digging up water leaks, Jim got the dirty jobs. He is supervised by a retired missionary who built several translation facilities in Mexico.
In case you thought "Typing Pools" were out of style, this group of retired volunteers I worked with have been instrumental in keyboarding out-of-print Scriptures for Here's a sample of the start of John 3:16 in one of the 200+ indigenous languages of Mexico called Mixtec (Bibiana is a Mixtec speaker).

16 ’Vatyi Nyoo cuñí xaan ra chi tandɨhɨ ñáyɨvɨ iyó sɨquɨ ñuhu ñayɨvɨ...

You can see why they might need help from a computer consultant once in a while!
Now, for John 3:16 in our heart language:

"For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." 
25 hours of driving over two days brought us back to southern Minnesota.
The lake at Albert Lea, MN, where Jim's mom, Jan, lives.

"Buster" is Jan's new Jack Russell Terrier companion who at age one already knows how to roll over, sit, and shake a paw!

Buster from jibe717 on Vimeo.

In a couple of days we plan to drive the 6 hours or so further north to "home sweet home" to finish out the winter and await spring!