Glorious, like Apple Butter

At the beginning of this growing season, our two little apple trees were very promising, covered with blossoms. Since we don’t prune our trees, this was the “on year,” the year we were supposed to get a good crop of apples. Then, a month or two months later, the fruit looked promising as well. The apples started pinking up, and they even began to taste like fall. We had just started commenting on what we would do with this crop of apples…and we got our hail storm, which pummeled those two little trees pretty badly. Needless to say, we were disappointed! But I went out a couple of days later and scavenged under the trees, picking through the fallen apples. My initial idea was to try to pick up the ones that were “just bruised.” When I saw how pathetically few apples there were that were “just bruised,” my standards loosened, and it became something like “the ones without bugs in them.” Even that standard slipped, and as long as the bugs weren’t embedded, the apple went into the bucket. Some of them were damaged and rotting beyond use, but I picked up a large bucketful of apples, and spent a couple of hours cutting off the bad spots.
IMG_3323eIMG_3487eWe cooked the apples this afternoon, and put them through this antique ricer we had in the Miner’s Cabin – a beautiful piece of kitchen equipment! The smell of apples cooking is the smell of fall and plenty, the smell of harvest and celebration and family gatherings. It reminds me of Curtis Orchard, a family orchard we used to visit in Illinois, and the wonderful apple donuts they were known for. IMG_3503eThe tart apples had cooked down into a beautiful golden sauce, steaming hot and fragrant. We now have it in a slow cooker to turn it into the wonderful thing called apple butter, since no one in the family particularly likes applesauce. A recipe to come…IMG_3492eA couple of things come to mind as I think back and write this. One obvious thing is just how fortunate we’ve been this year, as I think of the flooding down south and the fires north and west of us. The drought has been hard on this region, and we’ve had our hail storms, but compared with the destruction of the floods and the fires, we have been amazingly fortunate here and have nothing to complain about.

The second thing that comes to mind is just how good God is. As I was picking up fallen apples, looking at the spoiled spots, the bruises, the damage, resisting the urge to call it a lost cause, and thinking ahead to my plans for those apples, it seemed like a mini parable. On our own, we have nothing to offer – not to God or to anyone else. We are damaged and bruised and broken, completely corrupt at heart. Yet Jesus takes us and washes us, rather than giving up on us, and even in our brokenness He uses us to His glory. This side of Heaven, our bruises and brokenness will never completely go away. By God’s grace, those things will heal and lessen to a certain extent, but we will always struggle in this life. But He takes us anyway and calls us His own. How glorious.

Glorious, like apple butter. But better. Far better.

Messages in Bottles

Rummaging around in a 70-year-old garbage pile is probably not considered socially acceptable. I was thinking about that as I trudged out to the ravine with spades and a large bucket, pulling strands of old barbed wire out of the grass as I went along. Those will be for craft projects. But the trash pile was even better than anticipated, since I seem to have found the “source” pile! I learned a few things about the person who lived here – Pretty sure he drank whiskey and he had false teeth. No, I did not find the teeth. But I found a couple tins of false teeth cleaner! IMG_3033The pile is made up mostly of rusty old tin cans, but digging around we pulled out some interesting-looking glass bottles, a teacup with moss growing inside, an old enamelware bowl, rusted license plates from the 1930s and 1950s, and the head of a pitch fork. It is interesting to think about all the life that has been lived on the family place, people we never knew, people we aren’t related to. Mining, homesteading…living.  IMG_3076My mom wanted to know if I was ready to throw away all the trash I had brought home. Well, not really! I have ideas for some of these things. Someone else may have cast them off, but they will be added to my collection of “treasures.” As they say, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”IMG_3080These bottles and the whole notion of treasures bring a number of ideas to mind – How often do we recognize as a treasure only that which has intrinsic worth, or worth that has been assigned materially? How seldom do we recognize as a treasure that which is worthless by material standards, but which has value beyond reckoning?  Phrases like “rags to riches” call to mind a Cinderella-type story. Ashes to diamonds…Caterpillars to butterflies. Those phrases resonate with us. Maybe because our Creator put that longing on our hearts, a longing for transformation. And I suppose those are descriptive of the earth-to-Heaven part of the Salvation story. The Salvation story is the adventure of all adventures, the romance of all romances, the rescue of all rescues, the transformation of all transformations, the Bible being the Saga of the story of Salvation. We don’t belong to this world. Read Genesis. We don’t belong here. But what about “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” That is a different kind of transformation. The difference between the trash and the treasure isn’t what it is, but whose it is.
IMG_3101These bottles were nothing special when they were in the junk heap, and they’re still nothing special – Except that they belong to me and I happen to think they’re nice. In a sense, isn’t that the story of the Christian? Yes, Biblically there is a heart change that happens at Salvation and we are fundamentally transformed in one sense, and then are progressively transformed throughout our earthly life, and will then be gloriously transformed after death. Change is a result of genuine Salvation. So don’t misunderstand what I’m saying! Yes, there is a change. Ezekiel 36:26 reads: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a new heart.” But at the moment of Salvation, God doesn’t magically transform our circumstances or our flaws or our sins or our pain or our struggles. He doesn’t suddenly make us angelic creatures that deserve passage into Heaven by our own merit. We have no merit of our own! I was a wretched sinner before I was saved, and I am still a wretched sinner now. I still have a sin nature. I struggle with doubt, fear, pride, gossip, lust, and on and on. Becoming a Christian doesn’t make those things go away automatically. Sometimes, I think it actually intensifies those things, because with the heart change comes a knowledge that the “old way of life” is no longer acceptable, and then ensues the struggle against sin nature. Paul the Apostle recognized this all too well, and cried out in the book of Romans: “I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” IMG_3087 The Christian is a lot like those bottles and rusted metal. Nothing changed when I pulled them out of the junk heap. They weren’t treasures then and they aren’t treasures now. They aren’t worth anything to anyone. Except to me. Not because they changed. But because they are mine. I have given them meaning. In the same way, God doesn’t change what we are. He changes Whose we are. He gives us His Spirit, and the strength to change. He gives us a new heart. He puts His stamp upon us. He gives us meaning. IMG_3066He makes us treasures. His treasures.

Laura Elizabeth

Whimsical Windows

IMG_8609.1There’s a lot of fabric in an old bed sheet. And, depending on the sheet, good fabric, quality fabric. Perfect for curtains. Yesterday afternoon and evening, I sewed and hung curtains for the two living room windows in the homesteader cabin, from sheets we found while cleaning up the place. Until yesterday, we’d been using blankets (and these sheets actually), draped over the curtain rods to keep the warmth in and the dark out. But simple white curtains are so much homier and more beautiful, and are a lot better at diffusing the light.

IMG_8612.1I’ve always loved the look of glass sparkling in sunlight – Old jars and bottles and prisms, anything to add a little simplistic sparkle and shine. So, naturally, old insulators catch my attention. A little touch of rustic whimsy.

Laura Elizabeth

Working on the Miner’s Cabin

DSCN1245.1Now that we’re getting settled in to our new home, now that we’ve gotten the log cabin organized and looking like a home, Sarah and I have been able to spend some time in the Miner’s Cabin getting it ready for residents. The beautiful old shack has been used as a storage cabin for the past fifteen or more years, and my goal is to get it back to roughly how I remember it being, back when I was little. Add a little pure imagination, some historical instinct, and I’m hoping it will be a lively, beautiful little place.

DSCN0177.1When Dad was in his early twenties and working on the Burlington-Northern Railroad, he lived in this old shack, and even through the winter–So rest your minds, it is livable. In spite of there being no plumbing. It needs new wiring and the wood burning stove needs maintenance, but the roof is new and the structure itself is surprisingly weather-tight.

DSCN0172.1My project this afternoon was to get my sewing cabinet set up. The cabin has three rooms–A living room, a bedroom, and a lean-to. The lean-to is where I am hoping my sewing things will get to live. Although it is a little hard to see in the picture, there is a glass-front cabinet against the wall to the left. DSCN0079.1About two weeks ago, Mom, Sarah and I boxed up all the old jars (you’d be amazed how many there were!), and separated the keepers from the pitchers–Or, rather, the ones useful for canning from the ones we probably wouldn’t want to use for canning. Of the ones we wouldn’t use, I confiscated some and now can use them for sewing organization!  With all the extra jars cleared out or put to use, and with the interior dusted and wiped down with oil soap, it works nicely as storage space for sewing notions.

DSCN0074.1The shelves are the perfect depth for my overlock thread, as well as my normal sewing machine thread. There is an old spice rack and a curio shelf that I’m hoping to put to use for sewing supplies as well. DSCN1243.1Jars and baskets help organize buttons, sewing needles, machine needles, thread, sewing tools, and ribbon and trim. I’m looking forward to getting my sewing table set up, a gift from a dear woman back in Champaign for whom I did quite a bit of sewing work, and being able to sew away out here!

Such a cozy little cabin–A cozy cabin needs people to live in it.

Laura Elizabeth

Waste Not, Want Not

Back in Illinois, a dear neighbor of ours had given us a compost barrel. We opted not to give it passage to South Dakota (do you know how big compost barrels are?), so we were out a composter when we got here!

DSCN0262.1Sarah and I scrounged for materials, and actually found everything we needed for a double-bin compost cage. Old fence posts (there were some straight or mostly straight ones in the mix), baling wire, some miscellaneous woven wire fencing, etc. There was a huge roll of wire fencing tucked conveniently behind the garden shed but, unfortunately, we couldn’t free it. That’s what happens when the garden shed is built underneath a cliff, I guess.  That’s why the house is not underneath the cliff. DSCN0264.1

Driving fence posts was a new experience for me. It got old pretty fast. That is, after about a third of the end of one post. Putting the little posts in, we started hearing deep reverberations from the cliff face when we hit rock. We decided we hit bedrock, and the mighty pounding from the 12-pound hammer was causing subterranean disturbance that was then resonating from the cliff.

We got it done, though, and the end product was worth it! We put the compost cage next to the garden, so we’ll have easy access to the compost. Hopefully at some point we’ll add a sort of wooden frame to the opening, partly for support, partly to keep the compost from spilling out. But for now, this will do.


Waste not, want not.

Laura Elizabeth