Thursday, January 31, 2013

Maple Cheesecake with Cranberry Sauce

Every Christmas Ed's sister gives us a cheesecake. She has done this for years and I'm not sure if she has ever repeated a kind of cheesecake.

To say that we look forward to Aunt Bonnie's cheesecake is to put it mildly. You should see the children's eyes when Aunt Bonnie is spotted walking toward our door. Her cheesecakes are a work of art, always as beautiful to look at as they are to eat.

This year she made us a Maple Cheesecake with Cranberry Sauce. The combination of flavors - the tart cranberries with the rich cheesecake was perfect. It isn't a cheap dessert, but I begged the recipe from her to share with you. Maybe you are looking for something special for Valentines.

Maple Cheesecake with Cranberry Sauce

2 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 T. sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 cup maple syrup
3  packs cream cheese (8 oz), softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup sour cream
3 T flour
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar

For crust:
Mix all ingredients together and press into greased 9 inch spring-form pan. Bake at 375. Cool.

For filling:
Boil maple syrup until reduced to about 1 cup. Cool. Beat cream cheese and sugar. Add cooled maple syrup, sour cream, flour, vanilla, and salt and beat. Add eggs and beat lightly just until mixed. Pour into crust. Bake at 325 for 1 1/4 to 1/1/2 hours. Cool. Refrigerate overnight before removing spring-form pan.

For Sauce:
Combine all ingredients and cook ten minutes until berries pop. Cool. Serve on cheesecake.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Caramelized Onion Breakfast Casserole

I love caramelized onions and I love new ideas for breakfast. This new-to-me breakfast recipe was the perfect find.

This casserole is substantial enough for lunch or dinner if you don't care for a big breakfast.

Caramelized Onions Breakfast Casserole

4 strips bacon
1 onion, sliced thin
2 cups broccoli
5 eggs
1 1/3 cups milk
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
4 cups bread cubes (a crusty sourdough is perfect)
4 oz. Swiss cheese (or whatever kind of cheese you prefer)

In skillet, fry bacon. Remove bacon and crumble. In drippings, cook onion on medium-low for about 15 minutes until nice and browned. In a pan, cook broccoli until almost tender.

In bowl, combine eggs, milk, and seasonings. Stir in bread, brocolli, onion, cheese, and bacon. Transfer to greased 9x9 baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

Bake covered casserole in 350 oven for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 minutes longer or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Whole Wheat Biscuits

With snow falling outside, I have the urge to make a pot of soup and pan of biscuits. To me, comfort food doesn't get better than this.

I have struggled for years to find a biscuit recipe that I can use 100% whole wheat flour and still have an edible biscuit. This one is a combination of several recipes and - we think - is nearly perfect.

I use freshly ground white wheat flour. If you are using whole wheat flour from the grocery store, the results will be more heavy. You may wish to replace some of the whole wheat flour with white flour.

You can make a mock buttermilk for this recipe using 1 T. of lemon juice in 1 cup of milk. Or use one of the other dairy options.

Whole Wheat Biscuits

3 cups whole wheat flour (or a combination of wheat and white flours)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp honey or sugar
1 1/2 cup buttermilk, plain yogurt, or kefir

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in mixing bowl or food processor. Add butter and mix or pulse until butter is pea size or smaller.

If using food processor, dump flour mixture into a bowl. Add honey and buttermilk and mix briefly with a spoon. Do not over mix.

Turn onto a floured counter and pat flat. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle with flour and fold like a letter, then pat flat again. Cut with biscuit cutter or knife. (Square biscuits taste fine!) Makes 12-15 biscuits depending upon the size.

Place on a greased cookie sheet. If you wish, brush tops with milk. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Joyful Weariness

Earlier this week, my friend Stephanie emailed me an account of her afternoon. I begged her to let me share it with you, because I know that she isn't the only one who feels the weariness, and the joy, of motherhood.

A Joyful Weariness
By Stephanie J. Leinbach

Weary. So weary with mothering, with caring for the little ones orbiting around me. Weary with the burden of the child I carry, four months away from delivery, four months that seem like an eternity. Weary of this body of mine that does not bear children gracefully or painlessly.

My husband was home by lunchtime. His work had slowed to a trickle. My work, on the other hand, loomed mountainous wherever I looked: the laundry, the cooking, the sewing, the cleaning. Would it never end?

All I wanted to do was go to bed.

But the wall between the office and our bedroom was too thin to block the sound of my husband coughing as he worked at his desk. He’d had that cold for—how many weeks? I had lost count. I stared at the ceiling, longing for mindless sleep, longing for silence. But with his coming and going, accompanied by coughing, the three-year-old kept coming and going from her bed. I lay in tangled blankets and pretended I didn’t hear her calling for me, pretended I didn’t hear her shouting out reasons why she needed to get up. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to pound my pillow and yell, “Doesn’t anyone care that I’m exhausted?”

I gave up on my nap. In the now-empty office, I slumped into a chair and stared at my slippers. My husband stuck his head in, a small head poking around his leg. “I told her she could get up. It’s getting too late for her to be sleeping,” he said.

I looked at her. He looked at her. “Your mother isn’t very happy with you,” he said.

She came to my side, blinked long and sleepless lashes at me, and pulled my head down to kiss my cheek.

“Sorry,” she whispered.

I wrapped her in a hug. “I forgive you,” I whispered back and shut my eyes against the tears that begged to be shed.

Still weary. The burden of mothering is still heavy. But my heart…my heart is lighter now.

How about you? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the fatigue of motherhood - yet grateful for this privilege?

This guest post is written by Stephanie J. Leinbach, author of Light My Candle, Prayers in the Darkness of Miscarriage. Check out more of her writings on her blog.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Ed and I spent the past weekend at a little honeymoon cottage. How refreshing to spend hours soaking up the solitude of the mountains and time together. 

We had visited this cottage six years ago at Ed's 30th birthday. It was fun to come back and enjoy it again.

The owners have went the extra mile to provide a relaxing place for couples to reconnect.

The cottage is cute, very clean, and beautifully decorated.

Located back a long lane, out of cell phone range, with no other civilization in sight, the setting was perfect. A fresh snowfall added to the beauty of the scene.

There is something about leaving all other responsibilities for a few days that allows the body and mind to recharge. I arrived back home excited about serving my family and community again.

If you are looking for a getaway destination in Pennsylvania, I can recommend the Sweetheart's Country Cottage without reservation.

This weekend was a special blessing because we were given a gift certificate from friends at our church. If you are looking for a way to bless your pastor, consider providing them with the opportunity to enjoy a few days of refreshment.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Out of the Health Maze, Into God's Peace - Part 5

It has been rather scary talking about the subject of health and what the Bible says about it. I know it is a controversial subject that we won't all agree on. In this last post, I will share some of the conclusions I came to when I truly dug deep in my own heart. 

I am glad the commands in Scripture work for all times and all people. If the Bible instructed us to eat the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern diet that Jesus ate, those of us in a different climate would struggle to obey. Though God specified in the Old Testament how the Israelites should eat, He doesn't describe a perfect diet in the New Testament, and we are able to adapt to our cultural settings.

In some ways, I am limited by my circumstances. 

When I read books on the subject of health, I often become frustrated when I think of stretching the grocery budget to purchase the avocado, wild salmon, organic blueberries, natural sweeteners, and myriad of health supplements they claim are crucial to good health. I can't buy all free-range, grass-fed, organic, free-trade food and still meet my grocery budget. I can't grow, raise, and make all my own food from scratch and still have time for the things God has called me to do. 

I can do my best to stretch my budget and buy quality food. Food made at home is typically far cheaper, and healthier, than processed food. But I may find some things are not possible with where God has placed me and the priorities my husband and I have chosen. I can choose to accept my circumstances as designed by God for me at this present time and not be consumed by guilt by what I cannot do.

Why did the topic of health bring me confusion, fear, and guilt? When I took an honest look at my heart, I found health placed on a pedestal where it did not belong. “The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.” (Psalm 135:15) My pursuit of health didn't look as sinister as a golden idol, but my trust was in man, man's books, and man's ideas, and not on the Giver of Life.

I claimed the promise that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) If fear and confusion do not come from God, my preoccupation with what I fed my family was wrong. I needed to confess my sin in looking to man to give health and seek God's direction in this area of my life. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

Do I still read health books? Yes, I do. I enjoy the opportunity to learn new things. 

Do I still try to serve my children nutritious food? Of course. 

But I have learned to check my heart often and search for fear, pride, and frustration that appear when health has become an idol.

I'd love to hear from you. Am I the only one who has allowed health and nutrition to become the focal point?

Read the whole series - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Out of the Health Maze, Into God's Peace - Part 4

Love versus Pride

I noticed a disturbing result of my health research: pride. 
Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) 
My health research affected how I looked at myself and others. When I served my children homemade yogurt and whole-grain sourdough bread for breakfast, I began to look down on the mother who feeds her children sugar-laden breakfast cereal. At the grocery store, I looked with disdain at the shopping cart loaded with processed food.

The Lord wants my heart to overflow with love, not facts on the danger of high fructose corn syrup. He wants me to share the joy of the Lord with my fellow shoppers at the grocery store, not criticize their food choices. While I may choose to eat or not eat certain foods, I need to remember that those are preferences—not convictions.

If the Lord calls me to serve Him in a place where my preferred foods are not available, will I refuse to go? Jesus told his disciples, “And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.” (Luke 10:8) If I can't eat raw milk, real butter, and freshly-ground whole wheat flour, will it really matter in eternity? But it will matter if my heart is lifted up in pride and I refuse to demonstrate love. “Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) 

When I am a guest, I can cheerfully eat the food served to me even if it isn't what I typically eat. (Of course, there are exceptions for true dietary needs or allergies—I'm speaking here of preferences, not needs.)

Love will also keep me from looking with contempt at those whom I consider radical in their diet. Somehow I think I have found a good balance, and anyone more or less strict than I am is incorrect. When I roll my eyes at a friend's diet preference, I should remember that others may think my kefir culturing in a jar on my counter is equally bizarre. 

Love will seek to understand another's dietary preferences or needs. It means not being offended when my diabetic friend chooses not to eat some food I have lovingly prepared. It means not forcing my guests to eat sourdough pizza when I know they are not accustomed to such food. 

Love goes both ways—to the one whose diet I consider strict or lenient. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35) 

We will wrap up this series in the next post.

How does love affect your attitude toward others as it relates to the issue of health?

Read the whole series - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Out of the Health Maze, Into God's Peace - Part 3

So what does God's Word say on the topic of health and nutrition? 

While it doesn't give many specifics on diet or health, it does give principles to guide us in our decision making. Let's look at it together.

  • Physical death is not an option. “It is appointed unto man once to die.” (Hebrew 9:27) The typical life span is given as “threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years” (Psalm 90:10), but whatever the length of our days, we will all come to the end of our earthly life.
  • We are not to follow the example of Asa who “in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.” (2 Chronicles 16:12) God's command to Christians is to “call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:14) Of course, most Christians would consider it wise to seek the counsel of a health practitioner at appropriate times, but prayer and trust in God should always be our first reaction to illness. Not doctors, not books, not a new diet, not a health supplement, but our Maker Himself.
  • We can take a hint from Luke, a physician, who recorded no health advice. Instead, his two books of the Bible (Luke and Acts) focus on Jesus Christ as the answer to man's soul needs.
  • We are to eat in moderation, not as one “whose God is their belly” (Philippians 3:19) Many doctors agree that Americans would be healthier if they simply ate less, following the advice of Solomon: “And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.” (Proverbs 23:2) I have known those who have lost weight and improved their health simply by decreasing the amount they ate. In a wealthy society such as we live in where abundant food is readily available, choosing to eat less will take much self-discipline, but moderation is a Biblical command.
  • The Old Testament records God's specific guidelines on diet for His people, the Israelites. In the New Testament, conflict arose in the early church over whether or not to follow the Old Testament laws. After deliberation, it was decided that the Gentile believers did not need to keep the law. “As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.” (Acts 21:25) God created food and it should not “be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” (1 Titus 4:3-4)
  • As servants of God, our bodies are not our own and should not be abused. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Corinthians 6:19) To be a good steward of my body I will choose not to abuse it. I often think of smoking or alcohol in the context of abusing my physical body, but I need to also remember the affect of my diet on my health. There is medical evidence that heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases are influenced by the food I eat. Wise choices in what I eat today could possibly minimize my chance of disease in the future and allow me to more effectively serve the Lord and my family.
  • The Scripture speaks about judging others because of what they eat or do not eat. “For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth...He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” (Romans 14:2-4, 6)
  • If God allows healing through prayer, diet, doctors, or supplements, I need to be quick to give God the glory. “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8) My children have been blessed with generally good health, but usually once or twice a winter we catch a cold or illness. After hearing friends talk about the value in various supplements such as elderberry, I decided one winter to give my children something to help avoid sickness. Somehow, I never got around to ordering anything, possibly because of the overwhelming number of choices. But that winter we never got sick. At the end of the season, a friend asked what we did to stay so healthy. If we had been taking a nutritional supplement, I would have given it the credit. Since we had made no dietary changes, I could credit nothing but the blessing of the Lord. I am not against taking vitamins, but I hope I remember the lesson: All the glory for my health goes to the Lord.
  • Nothing I do will thwart the hold of sin's curse on my physical body here on earth. In times of pain and trial, a believer's trust in God will bring Him glory. “Whoso putteth His trust in the Lord shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25). Not safe from all illness, cavities, or disease, but safe from the wages of sin which bring spiritual death. While I don't like to think of losing my health some day, in Jesus Christ I can find joy that defeats fear.

    We will look at another aspect of the health topic in the next post.

    How have you applied God's Word to the topic of health?
Read the whole series - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Out of the Health Maze, Into God's Peace - Part 2

Peace versus Confusion

“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Psalm 119:165)

The end of this verse could be translated: “they shall have no stumbling block.” When I grope around in the health maze, my footsteps are not steady and my heart is not at peace. Great peace, abundant peace, is the result of loving God's law. I need to get my eyes off man's writings and back to the Word of the Lord.

Books written by men change with each passing health fad. A quick skim of health literature from the past few decades will find diets focused on low-fat, no-cholesterol, high-fiber, no-carb, low-sodium, omega-3, antioxidants—the list goes on and on. Every few years, new articles emerge and labels on food packages change to reflect the latest study.

I have researched some studies on which nutritionists base their health claims. The studies often contain shaky data and scanty evidence, and are sometimes misleading. If those who spend their lives studying nutrition can't agree and often change their minds, no wonder I have been confused.

But God's Word never changes. Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. I can find heart-peace in a God who won't pull out the rug from under my feet and tell me that everything I read and believed in His Word is now obsolete.

So what does God's Word say on the topic of health and nutrition?  We will look at that topic in the next post.

Read the whole series - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

Monday, January 14, 2013

Out of the Health Maze, Into God's Peace - Part 1

This week I begin a series on health and nutrition. I know this is a controversial topic and, though I wrote this months ago, I've been scared to post it. But I hope as I share my journey, it can be an encouragement to you.

I closed the book with a groan. 

My interest in health had led me to read yet another book on the subject. The author was convincing, but now my mind was in a muddle. What should I do with the information I read? I visualized all the food on my pantry shelves I had learned were taboo—in the author's opinion. What would my husband say if I carried out the recommendations in the book?

And what about the book I read last month whose conclusions disagreed with this book? Whose opinion should I follow? 

My brain ached as I tried to sort out all the information. I wanted to feed my family nutritious food but I was confused and overwhelmed. I felt guilty because I wasn't feeding my children the best. I feared my children might become sick without the best. I was frustrated because I couldn't afford the best. I was confused because I didn't know what was the best.

What child of God lives in guilt, fear, frustration, and confusion? Where was the “peace that passes all understanding” promised in the Bible?

Maybe you grocery shop without worrying about the consequences of your choices. 

Or maybe you, like me, have sometimes turned every food decision into an ordeal. 

Many times my desire for good health has caused me to be gullible and vulnerable to every slick advertisement, product testimonial, website, or published book that falls into my hands. I have found that seeking after health to give me what only God can provide will never bring spiritual fulfillment. 

In the next couple posts, I want to share a few things I have learned in my journey of deciding what to feed my family.

Read the whole series - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Friday, January 11, 2013

Tuscan Bean Soup

Nothing beats a bowl of soup on a cold winter day. And one of my husband's favorite soups is bean soup.

I've never been a fan of bean soup. I've tried several recipes, most of which had a ham bone simmered in the soup, and I just didn't care for it.  I always thought I did something wrong, but Ed thought it was good, so maybe I just didn't like bean soup.

But I still wanted to find a bean soup that I did like. And now I did.

I adapted this recipe from Cooks Illustrated magazine. I say adapted, because I rarely go out and purchase specific ingredients but just use what I have. The bacon gave this soup wonderful flavor, the slow cooking method made the beans perfectly soft and buttery, and the one pot meal makes the cook happy.

I now have a bean soup that I love!

Tuscan Bean Soup

1 lb dried white beans (navy, white kidney, or great northern)
8 oz bacon, cut into small pieces (can also replace with sausage)
1 large onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, diced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 lb (about 8 cups) kale or collard greens, chopped (I used cabbage.)
1 can diced tomatoes

Soak beans in 3 T. salt and 2 quarts cold water for at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse well.

In large oven proof pot (such as Dutch oven) fry bacon on the stove top. Remove bacon and saute onion and celery in drippings. Add garlic for the last minute. Stir in bacon, carrots, broth, water, bay leaves, and soaked beans. Bring to simmer. Cover pot with lid and place in 250 degree oven for 1 hour or until beans are almost tender.

Remove pot from oven and add greens and tomatoes. Return to oven for 30 more minutes until fully tender.

Remove from oven. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Remove bay leaf. Serve.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Day in the Life of Sourdough

It must be the time of year. I have been getting more questions about sourdough recently. Are you finding more time to experiment in the kitchen?

The last time I baked sourdough bread, which was back in December, I took some step-by-step photos. I'll try to answer some common questions while sharing my sourdough routine.

I took my starter out of the fridge. It looks black and scummy on top, and smelled as bad as it looks. Ed takes one look and said "I can't believe you can make anything good out of that!" 

But this is normal. I try to use my starter every week to keep it good and healthy, but over the Christmas rush, it had been neglected and looked rather bad. But with a little encouragement, I can get it looking good again. It may take an extra feeding but it will soon be teeming with natural yeast.

At 9:30 a.m. I fed the starter 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup water. I stirred it well, covered loosely, and placed in in a warm place (the top of the fridge.)

The starter was rather sleepy since it had not been used for a while. It wasn't until 4:30 p.m. that it had fully doubled.

I fed it again. Since there was now two cups of starter, I fed it with 2 cups flour and 1 1/2 cups water. I had to place it in a larger container.

Now it is acting perky. Only three hours later, the starter had grown to the 6 cup line, not quite doubled, but obviously growing. I love to see those bubbles in there!

At 9:30 p.m. the starter had doubled. Since I had enough starter to bake bread, I didn't feed it again. If I needed more starter, I could have fed it now.

Now that my starter is doubling in six hours or less, I'm ready to bake bread. If you starter takes a long time to double, use it for pancakes or biscuits until it becomes stronger. I learned this lesson the hard way! Raising bread calls for a robust starter!

At 7:00 a.m. the next morning, the starter had risen to its ultimate height during the night and then dropped. You can maybe see on the sides of the pan, the line that it had reached. This is fine.

I mixed up my bread dough with my starter and placed it in a bowl to raise. I used the Whole Wheat Sourdough recipe and made a double batch. (Don't try a double batch unless you have a large mixer or super strong arms!)

I had 1/2 cup of starter left. I fed it with 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water.

I went away for the morning. One thing I like about sourdough bread is that it doesn't need babysat as carefully as regular bread dough.

When I arrived home at noon, the dough had raised to fill the bowl. This is a large Tupperware Thatsa bowl. That is a lot of dough! I shaped the dough into loaves (and forgot to take a picture.)

My starter had also doubled. I put it back in the fridge since the busy holidays meant I wouldn't be doing more baking for a while.

My house was cool that afternoon and the bread dough was rising slowly. I should have found a warmer place for it. Since we were going away in the evening (the crazy schedules of Christmas!) I didn't have time to wait for it. Finally, even though the loaves weren't to the top of the pan, I put them in the oven anyway. I slit the top of the loaves and spritzed them with water hoping to get a good oven spring. (And still didn't take any photos.)

And it did rise! They didn't look perfect because their fast rise in the oven blew out the sides of the loaves, but the bread tasted wonderful. I'm not complaining!

I'd love to answer any other questions you have. You can check the sourdough page to find all my other sourdough directions.

And please don't feel bad if you don't find sourdough success immediately. I've been baking bread since I was ten years old (we won't say how long ago that's been) and baking sourdough for at least four years. Some things do become easier with practice. Some of my first sourdough attempts weren't fit for the dog. Don't be afraid to try to bake sourdough, but don't give up on the first try.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Question: Winter Egg Laying

This photo was taken on the first day of winter. 

What is so exciting about a bowl of eight eggs? Because these were the eggs laid on the first day of winter. Eight eggs - and we only have eight chickens. On the shortest day of the year, each chicken laid one egg. 

And it wasn't a fluke that happened only one day. The day before and the day after we also gathered eight eggs. Occasionally we'll get only seven eggs, but most often eight. 

This year we have the general sex link hens who are bred for maximum egg laying. Other years when we had heritage breed chickens, they laid fewer eggs per chicken but still did well at egg laying in the winter.
Now you are wondering what is the big deal?

Well, I've been told repeatedly that hens will slow their egg laying when the days shorten unless they receive supplemental lighting. But we don't have current to our hen house. Our hens receive no extra light or heat. Our weather the past two weeks has been cold enough to freeze their water overnight. One morning it was 11 degrees, but still these hens faithfully give us eight eggs a day. Typically we let our hens outdoors for part of each day but our hens are not excited about walking in snow! Our rooster won't even go out at all!

We did cut large windows in the chicken coop. The windows are low enough to shed light right into the hens. 

My husband read in one of Gene Logsdon's books that the whole theory of hens needing supplemental lighting to lay eggs in the winter was made up by the electrical companies in the early 1900's. According to him, farmers in rural America didn't think they needed electricity. In desperation for more customers, farmers were told that they would get more eggs if they supplied their hens with light in the winter months. Logsdon says that extra light is not needed.

I'd like to hear what you have experienced. Do you give your hens light?  Do you consider it necessary?  Do you agree with Logsdo's view of that the need for extra light is a legend?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The One Needful Thing

I love the start of a new year. The blank calendar feels like another chance to pull myself together and do it right for once! It is the time of year when I shine a light in the dark corners and resolve to change.

If you are like me it is tempting to make a whole list of goals concerning exercise, diet, organization, budget, etc. There is nothing wrong with such goals but are they truly important?

I wonder what God considers important for the coming year. What goal would He want me to make priority?

Maybe we can figure out some answers from this account.
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he (Jesus) entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10: 38-42)

Is there anything more important than spending time with God in Bible reading and prayer? Probably not. Of course, all of us moms have other responsibilities that need done. We just can't spend our whole day reading our Bible even if we want to. But, to be honest, too often, I push time with the Lord aside to do things that have little value. I don't utilize wisely the time God has given me.

When I thought about goals and priorities, I wondered why I write little about the most "needful thing." When I'm excited about a new recipe or a book I've read, I share about it here on the blog, but rarely do I write about what I've read in my Bible reading.  But if I encourage you to read other books, shouldn't I put priority on encouraging reading the Word of God? If I write tips on making the perfect loaf of bread, why don't I write tips on ways to make His Word a priority?

Maybe I'm silent because I'm afraid that it will appear proud, that I'm tooting my horn. But this past year, two friends, because of their openness in sharing about their Bible reading, encouraged me. My friend Jeanne shared that she was attempting to read through the Bible in a year, and inspired me to do the same. My friend Stephanie challenged me to set apart one day a week to read only God's Word, no other reading of any sort. (I wrote about it here.) The original month-long challenge grew into six months and was a real blessing to my life.

Since I've been blessed by my friend's challenges and since I consider you my friends, I'm going to muster up the courage to begin a discussion here. In the next months I'll continue to share new recipes, gardening tips, and the books I'm reading, but I hope to also challenge each other to make the one needful thing - spending time with the Lord - a priority in our life. In all the noise online with blogs, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter, my goal is to point to the only voice truly worth listening to in 2013.

I'd love to hear from you! How have you been able to make God and His Word the priority in your life? What goals are you setting this new year to make God's Word foremost?

If you are looking for a Bible reading plan for the new year, here is link to a large number of plans!


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