Monday, February 20, 2006

Weekend Efforts

Last weekend, our results were: a job, a car and a ballgame. Our second encounter with a used car salesmen used a word to describe a sweet deal: a "cherry"--that was the only thing we got from him. However, we did find a cherry on our favorite little website: We purchased a Hyundai Santa Fe with 30K miles, babied by our new friend, Irwin, a nice older gentleman from Philadelphia with a great accent and a passion to baby his cars. We looked at it on Sunday after watching Connor play at Scottsdale Stadium with sports greats such as Harmon Killebrew in a charity baseball game.
This weekend our attentions turn towards our own home turf. My parents, Dennis and Susan, are coming in for their first parental visit to see the new house and to work in the yard. I told my Dad that my yard was too big and that I needed his pruning abilities and to help me set up my garden. Believe it or not, but its planting time for summer vegetables in the next two weeks, as we have had our last frost. While its ten degrees in New York, its going to be up into the mid to upper seventies this weekend. So, all the gardeners will be at work this weekend.
Another Jansen gardener happens to be in town this weekend too--- Bruce and Barb Jansen, my uncle and aunt from Colorado, are attending a conference in Scottsdale. So on Friday night we are going to show them a hot spot in Chandler, Cyclo, for outstanding Vietnamese cuisine, and then they are going to visit the ranch on Saturday morning before they head out. I am sure all the Jansen men will be conferring on all the gardening possibilities of the yard before long.
The house is almost all ready for guests; beds are made, and the bread is made: I made sourdough rosemary black olive and a fantastic dark rye with cranberries per Peter's latest interests...And we have a new experiment on the stove---three citrus marmalade. I have never made a 2 day recipe before but we'll see how it turns out.
I'm off to pick up Connor to do a little dump run and get rid of some of the junk that has been inhabiting my back patio...I'll let you know how the Arizona sunshine works on the guests...
Here's Connor (#48 in black) with Harmon Killebrew, Zuverina, and Leon.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Life in the Country

At dinner time, my hands are usually dirty with some ingredient. Yesterday it was raw chicken. I was cutting the meat off the bone before I froze it, when the doorbell rang. I don't have many visitors yet so I washed my hands and went to see who was calling. I opened the door and a pot-bellied leathery old man with white hair is standing there with what looks like the water irrigation sign up list.
A little explanation: we don't have a sprinkler system. We have a irrigation canal at the back edge of our property that floods our yard every week. There is a complicated process of closing your neighbor's valves and putting the stopgate in below your valves in order to direct the flow to your yard. Then you have to wade through the couple inches of water back to your porch. I need some Wellies :) or apparently as they are called on a farm "Muck Boots".
Back to the story. As I answered the door, he kind of mumbled through this introduction of himself "You the new customer? Ya need to sign this and there's a fifty dollar change of owner fee." As he's saying this, he's leaning in through the frame of my front door. I asked a few questions then went to go get my check book. He walked right in! I then asked him if he wanted to come in and he followed me right to my kitchen work table. He then plunks his paperwork right down. Its was like he wanted to pull a chair right up and sit and have a chat. As he left he was eyeing my candy boxes, so I asked him if he wanted a piece. So he selects a hard candy and starts telling me all about his children's Valentine's gift of chocolate "They gave us some See's and I shouldn't have more". As we walk towards the front door, he starts telling me all about the previous owners "Epps, he was a real good guy" and how he needs to check on his wife "She broke her shoulder on the 7th" and how slow the 911 response was "They put us on hold!" with a little side wiggle of his head and that old man sucking noise.
Not an East Coast service man with an attitude, a pack of cigarettes and a sour face. We do things different here :)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Mouth to Beak-- From Uncle Chris

--- a contribution from Uncle Chris:
Woman Does 'Mouth-To-Beak' to Save Chicken
AARKADELPHIA, Ark. (Feb. 7) - Sometimes a chicken does have lips, just not her own. Marian Morris saved her brother's exotic chicken, Boo Boo, by administering "mouth-to-beak" resuscitation on the fowl after it was found floating face down in the family's pond.
Morris, a retired nurse, said she hadn't had any practice with CPR in years, but that she was interested to see if she "still had it."
"I breathed into its beak, and its dad-gum eyes popped open," Morris said. "I breathed into its beak again, and its eyes popped open again. "I said, 'I think this chicken's alive now. Keep it warm."'
Morris said she was pleased to find that the bird she saved was an "exotic," and not just an ordinary chicken.
The chicken is called Boo Boo, because she is easily frightened. The family thought Boo Boo was startled and flopped into the pond

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

HLR Delay

Our grand plans for a grand evening went a little different than planned. At 6:30, I was anticipating his arrival home with a delicious hot dinner and candlelight. And he was anticipating the same. Only he was anticipating it from the side of the 101 Freeway with a flat tire.
Just goes to prove that well laid plans must be laid aside with grace. He got home around eight, and we reheated dinner up. But the most important thing was that we both were able to respond well by God's grace. Another story, another laugh. Isn't that what life's about?
Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Happy Valentines Day from HLR...
...that is: Hot Love Ranch.
We think that Arizona is the state for lovers, not Virginia. Not only are Travis and I more in love than we were when we got married, but for the Shanks and Jansens, romance is always in the air. Our parents have set such a wonderful example of staying and growing in love every day of their marriage. We are seeking to emulate them.
We also want to give thanks to God for the gift of His love this morning. As we sat around the fireplace last night listening to our new Australian friends' stories, we were reminded of God's great kindness and mercy to us to have this "extra grace", as Mike so wisely put it. Travis and I have a love that is the direct blessing of God's love for us and the indirect result of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Without this church life, we wouldn't have been born (our parents met through Covenant Life), we wouldn't have been raised to love God, we wouldn't have the family life we enjoy, and we wouldn't have found eachother, nor fallen in love, nor actually made it to the altar without help from our pastors and families. We hope that you are reminded as well to "seek first his kingdom and righteousness and all this will be added to you"

Monday, February 13, 2006

Nesting Instincts

The babies leave their nest every day with Mama Tina (the Survivor).
And we are finishing our nesting here at the ranch. I am checking off the To-Do list one thing at a time, with a big push last week. We finished putting in our new backdoor, finished the bedrooms off, painted the hall closet, made the middle bathroom presentable, hung bathroom mirrors, bought a twin boxspring and set up our twin bed, borrowed a dresser for the yellow room, hung more pictures, cleaned up the game room /office, reorganized the laundry room, bought a couch, washed off the back porch, and put one more coat of stain on the dining room chairs.
Are you tired yet? I was.
Our goal was to host our first dinner party on Friday night. Steve and Janis put so much work into the house and we wanted to bless them. I followed Steve's request: "Nora, I want you to make me the spiciest Szechuan shrimp you can!" So our menu was set:

Crudite with Peanut Satay Sauce
Roasted Spiced Cashews and Almonds
Three Citrus Salad with Shaved Fennel and Red Onion
Black Sesame Grilled Chicken
Spicy Szechuan Shrimp
Brown Rice with Green Cilantro Sauce
Sambal *Chili Garlic Sauce*
Grapefruit Curd with Marscapone Cheese and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
The best part was that Connor helped me cook. He went with me to pick up the couch, he treated me to Dairy Queen and then he helped me get ready for our dinner. Thanks bud!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ranch Resurrection

The computer seemed dead.
The chickens had died.
Creative inspiration was fraying
Although everything else was fine
But new friends arrived
All situations are redeeming and alive
Three days of unpatient waiting
The computer arises and two survived
Along her tail end closely staying
Came three baby chicks close in a line.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Steel yourselves

The Steelers may have been victorious yesterday, but Jememiah, the black hen, faithful mother of six and hen to Kenneth, did not meet with such sucess against her opponents. Two marauding pointers entered the supposed safety and shelter of Cloud Ranch and took life from both her and her hatching chicks.
Then there were three. Or at least I think; I haven't seen Kenneth and the two remaining hens this morning yet. I'm holding my breath. Life is suddenly much quieter on the ranch, and lonelier. As my book "Life with Backyard Chickens" says, they provide a certain kind of companionship to life. I agree.
Life and death are a part of the life cycle here on the farm. Travis and I saw the two dogs running up and down the canal earlier before church. We put them back outside the fence before we left but came home from church to find the two dogs chomping away at something in their mouths. I called the dog and opened its mouth only to find a baby chick inside its mouth. We searched the oleanders and we found Jememiah dead and further towards the house, a collection of chewed eggs with almost full grown baby chicks inside. That explains why she's been missing these past two weeks from the flock.
So we will have babies on the farm this month, but not by natural methods. I'm going to finish the chicken coop and try and get some new baby chicks from Higley Feed and Seed to augment the recent losses by the end of the week. Life goes on.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Continue in Prayer

Have you ever woken up in a gloomy mood? I got up early again because I needed to make Travis' lunch, having forgot he was leaving at 5:15 am to get to his men's meeting in Gilbert. The gloom descends when he leaves for the day, but usually its a high-in-the-sky whispy cloud.

I have much to be grateful for. A friend loaned me her extra Ford Expedition yesterday, Connor came and cleaned up the yard with me, and another friend brought me a bougainvillea yesterday when she came and visited. Not to mention that I found a very cool spray paint for my two iron chairs-- and the best part was that it took 20 minutes to prime and paint it into a new 'hammered copper' finish.
But there are times when even my gross productivity doesn't lift my spirits. The gloom comes from my unbelieving heart and then I feel further disheartened. Colossians 3 says about all the work I have done:

"Whatever you do, work heartily as to the Lord and not unto men, for you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
Elizabeth Elliot comments in her book Secure in the Everlasting Arms :
All work, if offered to Him, is transformed. It is not secular but sacred, sanctified in the glad offering...Is there not a very important lesson for all of us here? In the very place where God has put us, whatever its limitations, whatever kind of work it may be, we may indeed serve the Lord Christ.

Her prayer from St. Francis de Sales is beautiful and so filled with peaceful grace:
Go in all simplicity; do not be anxious to win a quiet mind, and it will be all the quieter. Do not examine so closely into the progress of your soul. Do not crave so much to be perfect, but let you spiritual life be formed by your duties, and by the actions which are called forth by circumstances. Do not take overmuch thought for tommorrow. God, who has led you safely on so far, will lead you on to the end. Be altogether at rest in the loving holy confidence which you ought to have in His heavenly Providence.

What happy Providence has led me to the things I have, the things I need and the faith it calls upon for Daily Bread. Col. 4:2 says to "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Wash 'er Sins Away

The tied-dyed collection has grown in numbers.

Before I left on my honeymoon, I did laundry. I put in a load of darks after a load of whites into our brand-new Frigidaire washer. But when I pulled out the wet laundry, I realized first something was very different about Travis' new underware. What had once been black and grey was now a mixture of various hues of orange, faded black and green. Then, with dread, as I went deeper into the wet clothing, I realized Travis' new shirt, a Christmas present from Jordan, his brother, had also met with a load of dark's worst acquaintance: BLEACH. I blamed myself and thought that I had poured the bleach wrong into the washer. As my sister, Emily, will tell you, laundry just isn't one of my better skills. Ironing, I love, but laundry keeps me humble.

That brings us to today. About a week ago, I noticed a small flood on the left side of my back There is a rapidly drying puddle in the backyard-- but I figure it's good for the grass. I'm not sure my clothes are cleaner because the soap just overflows out the backyard--but less soap is good for them too. I manually advanced the load to the rinse cycle. And I thought I could forgive. But when I pulled out the clothes again, much to my dismay, bleach had it's way again! This time, my favorite green cargo pants have joined Travis' green shirt in the hippie world. I'll go back to ironing.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

One Month

Friday will be our one month anniversary of Arizona sunshine. Tuesday was one month of married bliss. Like Travis said in jest, "We've lasted a month!" He also brought me some very fresh flowers. And its 6:30 am and I've been up for two hours. We went to bed too early, so we woke up early. Travis is at his desk drawing a plan on his new drafting table and I am sitting at my farm table typing and visiting the world through our neighbor's internet. The rooster is crowing. He's just mad because I put him in time-out for making me rescue him from Buddy, Mike's rottweiler. He got what he deserved though; Buddy bit off all of his arrogant black tail feathers! I on the other hand, got what I didn't deserve- a gushing wire fence scrape on my right knee. First farm injury.

Reflections on the first month-- we got married, moved in, kept a job, went to Maui for 12 days, produced 11 chicken eggs, set up house, made new friends, attended church and caregroup, attended a party, gone endless shopping, met neighbors, changed Travis' oil, changed our mailing addreses, organized our files and, most importantly, became more grateful and stayed happier than we ever have before.

Today is a day for finishing the last room in chaos. And perhaps to clean out the chicken coop? I finished the blue bed room yesterday repainting some spots, framing our watercolors and setting up the bed. Guests are now welcome to say in a very comfortable queen bed with views of England, France, the Virgin Islands and the Outer Banks, NC.
But the yellow room houses all my crafts and sewing as well as memorabilia and eventually will have 2 twin beds. Needless to say, it needs attention.
My sewing room was briefly useful yesterday when I sewed a leather booklet for Connor (Travis' youngest brother, age 15) entitled "Beowulf's Dragon Manual". He had aged the paper, burned the edges and then we bound it in some leftover leather from Uncle Erik used for an Abercrombie chair and sewed it on a fabulous wedding gift, an Elna sewing machine, from Grandma Dahl. Everything has a story. And we are only one month into our tale.