Friday, March 9, 2018

A trip to the east coast (of Florida)

     I'm not quite sure how to begin this blog post since I haven't posted since October...  Sorry folks!  I can't promise to do better, because frankly, blogging about personal life/ family stuff just isn't the most important thing I have to do right now.  But - for those of you who are interested, I will still try to at least occasionally post something family related.

     So...  Without further ado, here is our recent trip to the Atlantic side of Florida!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Interesting Fact of the Day: Cannon shots in classical music, and their historical significance

What famous classical piece of music has 16 cannon shots written into the original score and includes portions of at least four other pieces of music?

And what connection does this classical piece by Tchaikovsky have with Napoleon Bonaparte?

As most everyone knows, Napoleon was a French dictator and general who made France a world superpower.  His power was finally broken, in the providence of God, by the British at Waterloo in 1815.  But the allied victory at Waterloo would not have been possible if it had not been for his disastrous campaign into Russia.  This campaign marked the beginning of the end for French dominion.
The Russians were comparatively poorly equipped and trained, no match for the French from a military point of view.  They were forced to resort to "scorched earth" tactics, retreating before the French army and destroying everything before them.  The French were thus forced to rely on an inadequate supply line for provisions in their advance to Moscow.  When they arrived in Moscow, they found the city in flames and learned that Tsar Alexander would rather sacrifice his capital than capitulate with them.  To make matters worse, the brutal Russian winter was coming.  Napoleon had no choice but to turn his dispirited Grand Armee around and leave.

The retreat from Moscow became one of the most discouraging pages in French military history.  Thousands of soldiers succumbed to the cold and starvation and the ones who survived were too dispirited and disorganized to win the War of the Sixth Coalition.  Napoleon was banished to the island of Elba, giving Europe a brief respite from his empire-building wars.

Now, to answer the first two questions:
The 1812 Overture has 16 cannon shots written into the score.
5 shots signify the French - Russian battle of Borodino; 11 more shots punctuate God Save the Tsar in the finale of the overture. It includes fragments of Lord, save thy people, La Marseillaise, U Vorot, Vorot, and God Save the Tsar. 

The 1812 Overture was written by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky to commemorate Napoleon's invasion of Russia, Tchaikovsky's home country.  This Wikipedia article explains the overture more fully, and it is amazing how this piece comes to life (at least, for me) after reading the article.

While the Russian Orthodox faith was mostly apostate and the Czarian rule of Russia was little, if at all, better than Napoleon's rule of France, God used the Russian campaign to break the power of the deist French dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.

So, if you are interested in listening to the 1812 Overture, check out this YouTube video (music only).  It is an amazing musical commemoration of Russian and world history.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hurricane Irma: The Weekend I Took 9 Dogs to Church

I'm sure everyone reading this blog has either experienced hurricane Irma or seen it on the news.  Just for the record though, I will mention that it was the largest recorded storm in the Atlantic (outside of the Carribean) with peak sustained wind speeds of about 185 mph.  It was larger than the state of Florida, and predicted to travel right up the middle of the state after making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane.  That's a strong storm!

Because it was so strong and we live in a mobile home, we deemed it would be prudent for us to get out of the way, so we evacuated to church.  A number of other families had the same idea, so we all got to camp out Sunday afternoon - Monday morning.  It was so much fun!
For those who are wondering about the title:  I have a litter of 6 Border Collie puppies right now, plus my three breeding dogs.  I couldn't exactly leave them behind, so they got to come along.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Blog Post That is Only About Our Family and Life

This blog post relates strictly to our family life for the last couple weeks and has no book recommendations or apologetic discussions whatsoever.

I am not very good at updating the blog about what has been going on in our family (as you have probably all noticed!)  So...  now that I have a few free minutes, I will try to share some pictures.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Fantasy Series: Fantasy is Addictive

Frankly, I did not mean to write this entire blog post in the style I did, but as it turned out, I felt led just to publish almost the whole thing in story format instead of as an article.  Maybe it will at least be easier to read...


     "Susie, have you completed that assignment on the French Revolution?"
     Susie hastily slid The Return of the King into her desk, picked up her pencil, and was bent over the history book which lay before her, resting her left forefinger beside the paragraph which she was reading, when Mom opened the bedroom door. Mom was pleased to see her being so diligent, but repeated her question as Susie looked up from her book, apparently surprised by her mother's appearance.
     "No ma'am," she answered, pushing away the guilty feeling which told her she should have been working on her research paper instead of reading Tolkien's classic. But that book was just impossible to put down...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Raining, Cats and Dogs

Originally written and posted on a very rainy day last week...

Ever since we got our first dog, Mama has periodically wished for a cat which would like dogs.  I used to have a hard time believing all she said about how her cats and dogs loved each other because my only experiences in that line involved excited Schnauzers, my stressed out, deaf kitty, and (later on) our whip-thin black cat, Flavia, who hates dogs, and Kep, who loves chasing cats.

Then Flavia retired from working and the rats (which are always more or less present on a farm) began multiplying way too fast, so we finally got two young kittens.  They were six week old brothers from Shepherd's Hill Farm and are the most wonderful cats.  They are sweet to each other and people, and I think they will be great ratters.  (BTW, there is one kitten left from this litter who needs a home!  Contact me if you are interested in adopting him.)

Dickon (left) and Chauncey (right)

The first time one of the dogs (Flossy, I think) walked up and sniffed the new kittens, they both totally panicked, as several scratches on my hands testified.  For a while they would spit and fluff up every time one of the dogs came nearby, but Flossy has the gentle-giant nature of her Great Pyrenees mama (Inez) and the curiosity of her Border collie sire, Duncan, so she didn't mind the fluffing, hissing, spitting, and swatting, and would just walk over to the kittens lick them until they were too soggy to spit and fluff.

So eventually, they gave it up.

I think Flossy thinks the kittens are her personal pets.  At any rate, she has trained them to be friendly with dogs, and because we never allowed the dogs to chase them at all, they have all accepted them as part of the family.

Even Kep seems to have been finally cured of his cat-chasing proclivities and has fully subsided into his role as Farm Grandpa, even providing entertainment and exercise for the kittens by wagging his tail obligingly.

"Well, what are you staring at?  Haven't you ever seen a cat hone its pouncing skills?"
But, though all the dogs are fine with the cats, Flossie is the one who really enjoys them, and they even seem to enjoy her (well, most of the time.)
Today it is raining, and everyone knows that rainy days are the best for napping.  Apparently Dickon and Flossie agree.

"See you later!"

Monday, July 31, 2017

Fantasy, Pt. 2: Why is Fantasy so Popular - and So Dangerous?

     Fantasy/ Science fiction is the most popular genre in America, and has been the best selling category of literature for some time.  Why is this?  Why do fantasy fans love it so much?  Why does this genre have such power to grip people?  And does this power make these books (and movies) good to read?

     These are the questions I have asked myself over and over, but the answer is not difficult.  The secret of the power of fantasy does not lie in the fantastic creatures, wild quests, melting scenes, or bloody conflicts of the stories, but in their limitless capacity.  Put simply, the answer to the above questions is twofold:

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hello Again!

A word of clarification:  This is a really long post because it is a compilation of several posts on my farm blog, hence the emphasis on farmy subjects.  Still, I hope it is fun to skim through the pictures and get an idea of what we've been up to.

Hi Everyone!
Sorry I have been away from blogging for so long.  It seems like over the course of the last few months I've been so busy doing things that I haven't had time to write about all I've been doing.  Well, it's good to stay busy, but it is also good to keep up with my blogs, so this week I have tried to focus on sewing and computer work.  So far, this is the first computer work I've done, except for a little writing on my current book, but hopefully I will be able to pile quite a few more languishing computer projects into the next few days.

If you have subscribed to my newsletter, you are already aware of what has been going on in our lives; it's been a lot!  Two siblings have been married, two calves have been born, one goat is due to kid soon, and Cleone is ready to be bred for her first litter of puppies, to name a few!  If you are not subscribed to the newsletter, you can sign up now via the form on the right hand side of this blog.

Below are a few pictures of life on the farm.  Enjoy the update!
Warning:  There are a ton of pictures in this blog post, so if you are not interested in looking at a long pictorial record of our year, then you may want to stop reading here.

If you are game for an update:  Welcome to January!

The sun rises on a new year...

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Evan + Joanna... (extremely belated)

I'll admit it:  I was discouraged about this blog post.  Not because the subject is not wonderful - it is - but because I was silly enough to close down the tab where I had written the wordy part of the original post without saving it.  Yes, I know that is a really bad reason to put off sharing these pictures until three months after the wedding, but - well, I just let other stuff get in my way.  Sorry about that!  Anyway, I don't have time to write a long description now, so I will basically just be sharing the photos.  Enjoy a (very belated) review of a very special day!
(Oh, yes - I will confess right now that these pictures (and some captions) are the same ones Savana used on the family blog, so sorry, only the text is new...)

December 12th, 2016

Thanks to our friend Anna, there are many precious moments captured for us all to enjoy!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

My First Book: A project which most of my readers have probably forgotten...

Have you ever had a project that just sort of lingered on and on, and you could not get it quite right?  Well, my first book has been just such a project...

Perhaps a few of you still remember my first attempts at writing, which were dutifully published here on this blog.  What began as a short story turned into a full-length novel, and and it took me about three years to write it.  In the process, I learned a lot about writing, but I also learned that my skills as a writer have lots and lots of room for improvement.  So...  All of that to say, part of the reason I haven't posted the whole book since I "finished" it several months ago, is because I have been wanting to go back through it and re-write the whole thing.  The reason I'm sharing it now is because I hate unfinished projects, and this one feels unfinished until I actually take the leap and share it.

So, please forgive the mistakes, only laugh at the parts that are supposed to be funny, and then let me know if you liked it, and what you think could be improved!

And may the Lord use this for His glory.  (Truly, it doesn't have any of its own!)  :)

Journeying in the Light (full length PDF)

*Please forgive the footnotes being scattered throughout the pages, instead of just at the bottom of pages.  I tried to fix this problem but just couldn't get it right.  :(

Friday, February 17, 2017

Farrah & Joshua Wedding, Part 2: Ceremony

Sorry it has taken me so long to get to this post...  I've been waiting until I had more pictures, and life has just been busy...

The ceremony and reception for Farrah and Joshua was beautiful and God-honoring.  It was so special to be included in the moment when these two were united as man and wife.

Farrah waiting to go into the sanctuary.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Joshua + Farrah Wedding, Part 1: Behind the Scenes

November 10th, 2016

Farrah and Joshua had been engaged for several months and now the big day when they would begin their new life together was almost here.  We had all been scurrying around the house (and town) assembling decorations, mixing tea, and purchasing food.  We had decided to rent the First Baptist Church in Williston since we were expecting a larger crowd than our church could comfortably handle.  We had made careful plans for how to decorate the church and the gym where the reception would be held, but could not put them into effect until the Thursday before the wedding because the church would probably need the gym Wednesday night.  So we waited and prepared.   Wednesday night we loaded up the chairs and tables from our church fellowship hall and took them over to the gym.  With plenty of hands we were able to work fast and unload all the tables and chairs in just about twenty minutes, stacking them to one side of the gym where they would be ready for us the next day.
Then, two days before the wedding, the setup began...

How do we turn this gym into a beautiful reception hall?  Farrah had done a lot of research (especially on Pinterest) and come up with some good ideas; plus Mama and Mamaw are both excellent decorators, so we had good hopes.

7:30 AM, Thursday, the first detachment arrived at the church.  Joshua, Farrah, Bo, Savana and I picked up food, wedding clothes, and decorating supplies from Evan's house (where the first few guests had already arrived) and our church (Faith Baptist Tabernacle).

Bo carting in a heavy load of supplies on an old dolly (minus a wheel) which he found in the gym.

Savana was a true "Maid" of honor...  She ironed all the wedding party's clothes, from Farrah's dress to Frankie's vest.  It took hours of hot, solitary work in the store-room on the second floor of the church.  Her help was such a blessing!

View of the musicians from the baptistery...

While Savana ironed and Farrah and Joshua directed the placement of tables, LilyAnn and I gave Mrs. E. and Christina a tour of the church, then had some fun pretending to be bridesmaids walking down the aisle while Charity and Haley practiced the music.  (I know, we were kind of goofing off, but there wasn't really any work for us at the moment and a joyful heart does good like a medicine, you know!)

Note the folded up bleachers on the balcony near the top center of this photo...

When we went back to the gym, where we were supposed to be working, we found that they had made good progress:  all the tables were set out (and carefully spaced with a measuring tape), and the young men had somehow managed to lift a heavy set of bleachers to the balcony above.  I heard that it was a dramatic scene, with some pushing and some hanging upside down from the rail above pulling...  I'm just glad everyone (including the bleachers and the railing) survived the ordeal!

There was a wonderful industrial kitchen to work in; it was great!  Sadly though, I was not involved in any cooking.  Joshua and Farrah took a group of young men over to the church on Friday and they did it all.

The food table all set up.
Farrah found this lovely idea on Pinterest and Anna Morgan, who also photographed the wedding, put the tables together, with some helpers.

Just as we were about to break for lunch, as I was taping tablecloths on the tables, word went round that the Siefkas had arrived, several hours before we were expecting them.  Yippee!  We now had more friends to fellowship with, and lots more help with the decorations.

Anna and Glory putting the lights on the high table.

The Wilsons stopped in for a while and the girls helped watch the younger children while Farrah went over the food plans with Mrs. Wilson, who was coordinating everything in the kitchen the day of the wedding.

At one point we thought we were going to hang a curtain of lights from the balcony behind the high table, and several of us were at work untangling them and attaching them to the rail.  But when we turned them on, they were LED lights and clashed badly with the rest of the lights we used, so sadly the light curtain idea had to be discarded.

This is the sanctuary the night of the rehearsal (Friday).  We were doing a little decorating in here after the rehearsal.

Saturday, November 12th!

Finally the big day came!  It was cool and beautiful outside, with a cloudless sky and soft air; perfect for a wedding.  I wanted to go with the first wave of workers to the church at 7 AM, so I headed outside around 6 to do the chores (milking a cow, feeding the horses and goats).  Well, the night before at the rehearsal, a call had come in that my goats were loose.  I had forgotten all about it in the action going on at the church, and just sort of assumed the guy who called had put them away.  Not so...  I found the door of the feed shed open, and panic struck as I envisioned the bucks I had borrowed from a friend croaked over on their backs with bloat from the amount of grain they had stolen.  (When an animal eats too much grain too quickly it can cause bloat (an undue gas buildup in the belly) and can kill them in a matter of hours.)  My Nubian doe, Mabel, was still in the field for a wonder, and I immediately began searching for the three missing goats.

Lo and behold, the goats had chosen that night of all nights to get out of the pasture and get tangled in our soccer net!  And of course the goat which was tangled the worst was a friend's buck which I was borrowing, and he was the favorite goat of his owner's family.  :(  Really though, this was the Lord's protection of them, since it kept them from eating all that grain and dying of bloat.
Thankfully, I was able to untangle them without too much trouble and without having to cut the net.  Then I was able to herd/ drag them back to their pasture (with some help from Cleone and a palmetto switch), milk the cow, and get back inside.  I was in high gear, so gave the milk to Joshua to strain, then dashed into the bedroom where our family was meeting  for a time of prayer and saying goodbye to Farrah.
It was a very short, but special time as we realized more fully what she has been to our family, and the reality that she was leaving began to sink in.  I was especially touched to see how touched my younger brothers were as we said goodbye.  It was good to take a few moments out of the roar and rush of the morning to pray and thank the Lord for the years she had been with us.

Joanna and Charity.

After a hasty (read "gulped as fast as possible") breakfast, I went to the church with Farrah, Joshua, Savana and Stephen (Joshua's youngest brother).  There I ironed the aprons for the servers (which had somehow been lost amongst the rest of the conglomeration of miscellaneous articles in the kitchen until the night before), then got dressed and had my hair done by Glory.  She was kept busy fixing everyone's hair that morning, and it was such a blessing she was able to do it!

All the bridesmaids, flower girls, and bride were supposed to have their pictures taken at 9 AM, but Emaline and Anna Frances (both flower girls) did not arrive until about 9:10.  A couple of us bridesmaids were lying in wait for them when they showed up and whisked them off to the upstairs bathroom/ dressing room at full speed.  I dressed Anna Frances at racing speed, Glory did their hair, and we hurried out to get the pictures, a little late, but with enough time to get them done.

And then, when all the pictures were taken, and everything was in place, we found ourselves lined up in the hallway outside the sanctuary, greeting people as they came into the foyer.  Eventually someone decided that really the wedding party should not also be the welcoming committee and we were hustled into a side room until the ceremony was to start.
And we waited for the clock to reach 11:00, when Farrah's new life would begin...