Summer Break Begins

Before our summer season of volunteers begins, we grabbed the chance to have a bit of family vacation.  Since we have lived in Kentucky for ten years, we figured we should take in the world heritage site of Mammoth Cave.  To quote Stephen Bishop, an early guide, the cave is “grand, gloomy, and peculiar.”  The tour guide shared interesting tidbits of information, and it was an adventure squeezing through narrow passages and climbing and descending hundreds of steps.

Being part of the National Park System, there is more to Mammoth Cave than what is underground.  There are also trails to hike and beautiful sights to see above ground.

After our time away, we returned home to welcome my husband’s parents for a visit.  Our youngest celebrated his ninth birthday with presents, lasagna, and ice cream cake.  Since school is out, there has been lots of time for play including match box car races, marble track, and trampoline.

The garden has yielded some beautiful produce.  The bountiful rains have filled out the radishes and strawberries and caused the greens and herbs to produce large leaves.

Our last home school group meeting was a field trip to Pine Mountain Settlement School where we toured their agricultural initiatives including gardens, chickens, honey bees, and hoop houses.  A gorgeous, sunny day after several rainy days was a welcome treat.

Snapshots from the Week

The last few weeks have been full with finishing the school year and preparing for our summer season of volunteers; but it was fun to arrive at camp and find the peas, potatoes, and greens we had planted in April pushed up through the soil.  I was able to harvest a few radishes and salad greens, and we have pulled enough strawberries for the six of us to each have a few.

The iris, which is my favorite flower, were in full bloom.  I found a wild one blooming at the edge of the woods.

The children and I got the summer vegetables planted: beans, corn, several varieties of summer and winter squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers.  Teamwork made the job go quickly.  Our oldest pulled back the wood chips with a hoe.  Our daughter and I planted the seeds, and our two youngest boys took turns covering them up.  At the end of one row, we uncovered a salamander which the kids found to be a fascinating diversion.

Later in the week, after all the vegetables were planted, we were grateful for a lovely, soaking rain.

One morning, the clouds were rolling in over the camp; and I had to stop and thank the Lord for the beauty of the sky.


That same morning, I admired the colors of our breakfast fruit salad.


Our oldest spent quite a bit of time in the shop working on wooden creations.  This was his first chiseled piece.  Later, he made another and was excited that someone bought it.

20170516_112322 A few snapshots from the week!

Farm Sale

A traditional activity of Pennsylvania farmers is attending farm sales in the spring.  It is a place to gather and exchange pleasantries with other community members, pick up a few deals, and buy some lunch from the food stand.

This spring, after more than forty years of farming, my dad decided he was going to rent out his fields and that he would sell his equipment.  Another man had some small items to sell, so an auction was planned.


I hadn’t been to an auction for years, and it was a new experience for our kids.  At nine o’clock in the morning, the auctioneer began selling small items off the back of the wagons.  A sampling of items included tool boxes, tools, a vintage egg basket, a potato planter, a sump pump, shovels, chicken feeders, and even a “training stick” from the 1940s (AKA Board of Discipline).


The call of the auctioneer has a draw that holds the attention.  From time to time, he would throw in some casual banter to lighten the moment.


Our oldest got to be a runner and hold up items for the crowd to see.


After scanning the crowd, I quickly realized this was predominantly a men’s event: men of all ages, various professions and church affiliations.


The intermittent rain did not seem to put a damper on the attendance.  Some put up umbrellas, and others just stood in the gently falling showers.

After selling the small items and garden tools, the auction moved onto the farm equipment including tractors and implements.


Throughout the auction, the food stand was open where one could purchase typical Pennsylvania sale food including chicken corn or ham and bean soup, sloppy Joes (hamburger with BBQ sauce on a potato roll), hot dogs topped with sauerkraut or BBQ, whoopie pies, and various kinds of pie by the slice.  Pie is my dessert of choice, and there were lots to choose from: shoo fly, apple, pumpkin, cherry, red raspberry, lemon meringue, blueberry, and more.

At the end of the day, some items went high and some went low.  As my dad said, it all came out in the end.   I was glad to have experienced a bit of my Pennsylvania roots.

Snatched Moments

Despite feeling weary from weeks of high energy work, there have been snatched moments to pause and notice the beauty of the season.

The red bud blossoms are out in all their glory, and the dogwood are following close behind.


Our daughter is preparing for a dance recital.  One night at practice, I caught her mid-leap.


The peas and lettuce have sprouted!  The sighting of the first seedlings always brings joy to my heart.


On Saturday, our daughter and I were pleased to be able to attend a ladies’ tea at church.  Along with approximately 150 other women from the community, we enjoyed beautifully decorated tables, a delicious brunch, delightful company, and inspiring music and speaker.

Taking to the Air

This week we hosted a group from Manitoba who came to work on projects at the camp.  One of the couples flew into the small airport in our town.  On a beautiful warm evening, the pilot offered to take a few of us on a ride in his airplane.



When we at arrived at the airport, I was surprised how small the plane was.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I really enjoyed the flight.  On a small plane, I realized the awe of flying more so than on the large commercial flights that seem more like riding a bus.  The flight over the mountains was amazing to realize how vast the wilderness is.  The tree-covered hills roll on and on with pockets of buildings in the hollows.


At one point we swooped over the camp.   The unexpected thrill felt like the free fall of a roller coaster.


After about twenty minutes, we landed and watched the second flight, which included our oldest son, take off.


What an awesome experience!

Planting Peas

After two weeks of hosting volunteer groups with several very cold days, it felt great to get out and work in the soil and soak in the sunshine.  The children and I planted both shell and snap peas, carrots, beets, and radishes.

This is our second season of gardening with woodchips.  First we pulled back the woodchips to expose the dirt.  The soil was improved from last year, darker and richer.


Two of the children discovered an earthworm to observe.


We planted the pea seeds six across each foot-and-a-quarter section.


Then we pulled the woodchips back over the seeds.


Our third child captured our daughter and I planting carrot seeds together.


In the midst of planting, our daughter discovered in the ditch what I think are frog eggs.


How’s that for hands-on learning?!

Creative Play

This week our children displayed their Dutch-Canadian heritage.  All on their own initiative, they set up goals and began playing hockey on roller skates in the lodge.  They have become quite dexterous on their roller blades and skates, flying around the room in pursuit of the wiffle ball.

Another activity has been a game that the oldest made up and created in the shop.  The game involves catapults and wooden pieces.  They have been enthusiastically playing it every spare minute.

I love to see their creativity and them enjoying each other’s company!

Maple Syrup Report

In January, we tapped three maple trees at the camp.  We knew this would be an experimental year for us but were optimistic that we would be able to produce some maple syrup for our use.  Thus far in 2017, there have been several days with weather that is conducive to a sap run which is below freezing temperatures at night with above 40 F during the day.

Of the three taps, only one has produced any sap.  After consulting with friends who are more experienced, we learned that some trees produce more than others.  Some trees do not produce at all, and even different locations on the same tree can produce different results.


One day, we did collect a cup or so of sap; so I decided to boil off the water just to see what the results would be.  After cooking on low for several hours, about a tablespoon of syrup was left.  We all enjoyed tasting a bit of the sweet stuff.  I think I should have removed the pan from the heat sooner, as the syrup was pretty thick.  While we may not end up with much syrup this year, it is fun to realize the potential for producing a valued product.


Warm Winter Days

What do you do when it is winter but warm and no snow?

Learn to whittle.  Check out library books on whittling, and practice.

See how far acorn caps can be thrown over the carport roof.


Pick up a broom and sweep the porch without being asked.


Dress up the dog as a superhero.


Sometimes boredom inspires creativity!


Cooking on the Woodstove

Here in the mountains of Kentucky, all in one week, the weather has swung from colder than average and snow to spring-like temperatures and rain.  During the below-freezing days, we were using the woodstove to heat the house; so I decided to try my hand at cooking on it.  I was amazed at how fast I was able to prepare our supper.

Using the “Autumn Vegetable Soup” recipe from Simply in Season, I sautéed onion and garlic in butter on the woodstove and then added the other ingredients which included cabbage, carrots, kale, turnips, tomatoes, black beans, barley, broth, and herbs.

Cornbread seemed like a nice complement to the soup, so I searched the Internet for instructions on how to prepare it on a woodstove.  Surprisingly I did not find much information, but one person had tried it; so I gleaned some tips from her.  First I melted the butter in a frying pan on the woodstove, then I added the cornbread batter and put the lid on the pan.  After cooking for a few minutes, I put a cooling rack under the frying pan to keep the bottom from getting too brown.

When I  returned to the house after about an hour, the aroma of soup greeted me; and the cornbread was finished.  The texture of the bread was smoother than usual, and the flavor was delicious.  Curiously, the taste reminded me of homemade communion bread.

The family savored simple, but hearty food on a cold evening; and I was gratified to know that,  were we without power, we could still prepare a meal.