Saturday, May 30, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Well, I have neither silver bells nor cockle shells, but my garden is growing quite well, all the same. It tends to do better when I don't mess with it.

For example, the happiest plant I have is the zucchini which sprang up all by itself about a month ago. That's one of the benefits of throwing all the compost into the garden area...volunteers!

The brussles are doing well, although they aren't as tightly bunched as they should be. Do you think it's 'cause they're a cold-weather veggie? I'm ready to harvest them anyway, even though the sprouts are only about a half-inch diameter. As soon as they grow bigger, they just open up. I'll let you know how they taste!

The green beans are happy, too. These plants actually grew up as a second crop from the ones I planted in October. We didn't get to enjoy the harvest from the last crop, although I heard that they were yummy! We should be here when this crop matures, Lord willing!

I remember when I was little, my mom always had to remind me to put shoes on (even though I seldom actually did it). I remind my kids, too, for a couple of good reasons. First of all, we have some really mean ants here. The general consensus is that we prefer to be stung by a scorpion rather than an ant.

The other reason is the guachapole. I have no idea if that's how you spell it, but here it is...
They love to fasten themselves to the hem of your skirt, the cuff of your pantleg or even the edge of your shoe.

This picture caused me to smile as the Lord gave me a spiritual application. Sometimes it's amazing the lengths we will go to to avoid the stickers in our life. Rather than walk the tightrope of old, buried tires to avoid stepping in the sand, wouldn't it be easier to just put on shoes?

So many times I find myself struggling through a frustrating situation and then realize that I really didn't spend any time in prayer about it beforehand. You'd think I'd learn by now!!!

Matthew 6:33 says, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you."

If you're wondering what "all these things" refers to, let's read the context (the NI-me version -- King James with a little tweaking).

Verse 25 and following...

Therefore, I say to you, take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than meat, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap, nor taher into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you much better than they?

Which of you by thinking about it can add one inch to his stature? Why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field; they neither toil nor spin; yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these!

So, if God dresses the grass of the field which is here today and burned up tomorrow, won't He take care of you as well? Oh, me of little faith!

Therefore, do not worry saying, What shall we eat? What shall we drink? How shall we get clothes? (This is what the world is worried about, afterall.) Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of these things.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
Well, that's how God is talking to me this week! I pray that you are encouraged to seek God first and not sweat the small stuff!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The New Brick Oven

My latest major project…

Two years ago, a friend of mine, Lupita, gave me a brick oven for my birthday. Sound like a strange gift? Even stranger is that she and her husband came over and actually built it for me. I was so touched!!! You can see that oven here.

For various reasons, it didn’t get used as much as it should have. The main problem is where I had her build it. I thought that behind the house would be the best, since we had planned to build a patio and palapa back there. However, until we built an awning of some sort, there was absolutely no shade. Plus, it was really far from the front door. When we finally laid a cement floor behind the house last summer, it ended up too close to the oven and…well, we finally just knocked the brick oven down and stacked the bricks to reuse…someday.

Last fall, I joined a forum called Forno Bravo Pizza Ovens. Pretty interesting reading, actually! I downloaded some free plans for a brick pizza oven and began to research the best way to do it.

I showed my ideas to my friend Shari when we were in Oregon last February. She said that if it worked out, she wanted one! Well, Shari, start planning your outdoor kitchen!!!

I’ve waited to post about this for fear that it just wouldn’t work. With all the substitutions and tweaks to make it fit our climate and work with what was available here – plus the fact that I’m less than amateur – I was sure it would cave in halfway up the dome!

Guess what??? It’s finished! Well, not exactly “finished” but the bricks are all laid and the first coat of exterior mud is on. It’s still standing!!! Hurrah!!!

So, rather than bore you further with my ramblings, I’ll share pictures of the process…and it was indeed a process!!!

First we prepared the area. This was a job which Doug and the boys did. Doug poured a cement wall and the boys filled it in with rocks and sand. Esteban and Aby even got in on the fun!

Next came the base. We worked hard to get it level. I messed up the last pass, so the front edge ended up about an inch and a half higher than the back edge. Sigh. We had to fix the problem when we laid the floor.

I still have the shirt, Sarah!

The floor is staggered ladrillo (red brick) laid at a 45° angle. Doug and I laid the first half of the floor the morning that we ladies went to the river for Mother's Day. When I got home that evening, the floor was finished. Sarah had helped Doug to finish it off. Everybody say, "Awwww."

At this point, you might be asking yourself, "What is that she's using to lay the bricks? Is that just mud?" You might not be asking that but either way, here's your answer...

It's a mixture of %50 tierra muerta (dirt/clay) and %50 caca de vaca. Yes, that's cow poop. Actually, we chose horse poop -- the experts here said horsey doodey was better than cow patties. Hey, I trust the experts!

I put off starting the “body” of the oven for several weeks. I was so afraid I would mess it up!!! Ramon de Rosales stopped by and offered to help. Victor from Boca offered to do it for me. Ramon from Boca offered to help, too. I kept saying, “No, but thank you.” I changed my mind about how to form the thing half a dozen times – vacillating between my two main options: Do I lay the brick flat and tip them to make a “fan” sort of shape (like the official oven plans had said to do) or do I do it like everyone around here does it? Most of the brick ovens I’ve seen around here look pretty rough. I had a picture in my mind of how I wanted the finished product to look. "Rough" is not the look I was going for.

Finally, I decided to lay the bricks flat and stair-step them like everyone else does around here. Esteban and Julio finally convinced me that was the best way and that no way would it cave in. I told them that if it did, I'd blame them!

So we began!!! BTW, special thanks to Steve and Gloria for the canopy!!! You can see it's being used well!!!

The first pass stood upright to give more height to the interior of the oven. I want to be able to put casserole pans and stew pots in there, not just bread and pizza! Aby and Esteban just happened to be here that day (it was National Teacher's school), so they mixed mud in exchange for lunch! They would have done it anyway. They are just that cool!

A week later came a pass of flat bricks. I had to wait until I had a whole morning free, and those don’t happen that often!!!

The bricks stick better when they are soaked and the mud doesn't dry so quickly.

Doug cut some metal angle iron to make a door opening and we laid the next pass.

Then the stair steps began. It went so much faster than I expected!!! The kids and Doug took turns passing bricks while I laid them in place. Evie came out to take pictures several times. Doug kept me supplied with mud...bless him!!!

About halfway up the dome, I crawled inside to fill in any big gaps that might have been inside (there were a couple). The kids found this photo amusing.

So, we finished the dome.

The hole serves as a chimney. This is another technical thing which I was going back and forth about. All the oven plans I found included a chimney or a vent of some sort at the front of the oven. Every one here leaves a hole either at top or directly at the back. You have to have some sort of breathing hole, so finally we decided that we'd do it the Mexican way. When it's finished, a single brick is laid over the hole during cooking to keep the heat in.

Thursday, we began building the dome, today (Friday) we finished the dome and almost finished the exterior mud. Seth and Doug and I had fun throwing the mud on. It was especially nice to be able to stand up straight while working! The canopy made it possible to work in the blazing sun, but I think my back will never be the same again!!!

One more wheelbarrow full of mud, and we’d’ve had it! Problem was, the mosquitoes and the gegenes were coming out, and it would have been miserable to work with them “helping”!

Sunday we’ll finish up the outer coat, and Monday we’ll put our first fire in! The whole village is waiting for a pizza party!!! ☺

My Son's Career Choice

Just had to share this gem today...

Yesterday, Caleb and I were sitting on the front patio talking about deep subjects and watching Elvis the Duck waddle around the yard. Caleb said that he had decided on the perfect job for his future.

Caleb: I want to have a motorbike with a toolbox on the back. I'll ride around in different countries taking Bibles to villages where they don't have them, and I'll preach the gospel. I'll trust God to provide for my needs, and if I need to work for gas or to buy more Bibles, I'll stop somewhere and pull out my toolbox and just do what people need done. I can fix their tools, or do metal-work or build stuff...just whatever needs to be done, y'know?

Me: Wow, Caleb. I can totally see you doing that. It sounds like a great plan.

Caleb was silent for a moment and then said: Mom, I just told you that I want to be a vagabond when I grow up and you said, "That's great." I love my parents.

Yes, I laughed, too.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Teaching Place Value

In math, Andrew and Evie are learning place value. I'd forgotten that it's a bit of a tough concept, but fortunately I seldom throw anything away and I still had what I created to teach the concept to the older kids.

The Place Value Village

With this visual aid, I teach the concept of borrowing, carrying and place value. We practice writing large numbers and teach how to read them. Each "house" is named after a place value: the Ones House, Tens House, and the Hundreds House. Each group of three houses is on a "street": Ones Street, Thousands Street, Millions Street and Billions Street.

Each street is separated by a comma and there's a decimal point to the right of the last house.

I attached the houses to a white board, so the kids could practice below and erase easily. After nearly 10 years, the construction paper had faded and the cardstock looks a little the worse for wear, but it's still serviceable! This is by far one of the best tools I ever made to use for math!

A Little Health Is a Good Thing

After posting about how sick I've been -- and then disappearing off the net for a week -- I thought it good to share that we are all once again healthy. Hurrah!!!

The day after I posted about antibiotics, my good friend Rachel emailed me and reminded me about the healing powers of garlic. So, instead of buying a round of antibiotics for each member of the family, I bought about 8 heads of garlic.

Our family has had some pretty strong breath this past week, but we all feel better! For Doug's sore throat, I made a syrup of garlic and honey. Personally, I prefer to just eat the garlic plain, but we wanted to try this recipe, so...

All the kids actually wanted to taste it once they heard/saw Doug's reaction.


What did it taste like? Sarah's face says it all!

One neat thing about this past couple of weeks is that since no one really felt much like doing schoolwork (especially not the teacher), we did a few fun things we haven't done in a long time.

Evie, Andrew and I put together several puzzles, everyone else took turns playing 4 or 5 handed Pinochle, Killer Bunnies, Risk, was, even though most of the house was sniffling and had a sore throat, a pretty fun week. Add to it that all events for the week were cancelled because of the "swine flu epidemic" and it also became pretty relaxing.

But, all good things must come to an end! Now we're all healthy and whole and church services and activities have resumed. Life has restarted, and it's back to busyness as usual. At least we're all refreshed and ready to face life now!!!

Sometimes we all need just a few days vacation, eh?!


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

One More Round of Antibiotics

Ugh. Here I am on my 4th round of antibiotics for yet another sinus infection. Double ugh. After my boasting in January about the wonders of goldenseal root powder for staving off sinus infections, here I am. Chewing morosely on my words.

I'm so sick of being sick. Since we returned from our furlough in March, I don't think we've had everyone healthy at the same time. I could be exaggerating. I probably am. In fact I'm pretty sure that I am, but when I have a headache the universal statements just fly. The boys always slam the door. I always have to cook. I never get to take a nap in peace. I'm just a whiner today!

Well, as my dear friend Kay from Oregon used to say, "It's ok to sit on your pitty potty once in a while. Just don't forget to flush when you're through!"

So, I flush now. All better. Grumpiness gone. Headache still a bummer, but I think another quart of strong tea will help. Maybe some mustard plaster. Yummy.

So here's a question for you ladies (gentlemen too, although I would imagine that most men don't really give it much thought unless they happen to run out.)...

What is your personal opninion about antiperspirant?

I'm actually very curious to know what others think about antiperspirant (as opposed to deodorant) and whether I really am as psycho as my oldest daughter thinks I am. Well, I probably am, but that's ok. I have some pretty radical, hippy, conspiracy-theory opinions on antiperspirants and sunscreens. Am I the only one???

So, share! If you've never even given your Arid Extra Dry a second thought, share that, too. The curiousity is killing me! Wait. That's my headache...