Category Archives: FAMILY

Behavior and Tasks

I’ve always been amazed and astounded at how, even at very young ages – preteen in fact, my children have exhibited the powers of observation, deductive reasoning, insight into human behavior, and spiritual intellect far above what i would think is normal at any age. Maybe i’m just clueless. Whatever the reason, most of the time, i’m thankful they feel free to share my shortcomings with me.

In fact, the biggest change was to learn to NOT start another project until the one at hand is completed. They noticed that this would cause me to be overwhelmed by too many incomplete tasks – which simply drives me nuts! It seems like a low priority task should be started while you are in the location of a high priority task – but i’m guessing that 90% of the time that simply isn’t true. Best to make the priority list and stick with it. Don’t start that task that could be put off for 6 months or a year. Just don’t do it. Finish what you are doing, tick it off the list, then start the next. (along with this admonishment comes the all important question – does it really need to be done?)

Don’t get me wrong – if you are reroofing a building and you have a crew and equipment all on site and well into it and you find some rotted boards – yes, replace the rotted boards, then finish the roofing. You get the drift.

Why do i bring this up? As readers have noticed, i’ve started a new and exciting grazing program which is already show promise. Will i be able to maintain the protocol? Yes, with modifications in time and allotments, but the principles can be used. (and mostly as Yah allows)

Anyway, my youngest son, years ago, (okay it can’t be that many years since he’s only 24), pointed out that until the grazing and cow business can’t be put to a management level that most people can handle – even with minimal training – i’m simply never going to find anyone who will want to take over or even help because the day to day is ridiculously overwhelming – basically feeling like i’m putting out fires rather than focusing on building a profitable business that’s fun to watch grow with healthy animals, healthy soil, water, and forage, while producing a premium food product.

To that end, i’m finishing up getting my semi-permanent hi-tensile fences in place to better utilize water, forage, and time resources.

The total grazing plans are a bit bumpy for now because i’m not fully on track, but i’m getting there. Grazing where i wouldn’t normally graze if i was already , but needs to be prepared and get in sync. HA! Well, that was clear as mud.

I needed to change the location of a fence – nearly done with that – this is not necessarily in response to easier strip grazing (though it will be extremely better placed for that) and was already on the to-do list for a couple years now. I installed it in the wrong place 12 years ago – finally getting it done. Otherwise, there are a few short stretches of fences to install, remove, or shift plus i will re install the fence on the Bowyer farm which were removed for the organic soybean farming.

But every task has a priority and unless weather or some such intervenes, I plan to tackle them in the proper and timely order.

So thankful to be able to work hard everyday – though i run out of steam and muscles a bit more quickly than i did a decade ago.

Have fun!

Traditional English Toffee

This is so easy and so delicious, i may founder on it! Show some restraint!

TRADITIONAL ENGLISH TOFFEE

Ingredients:

1 cup pecans, chopped

¾ cup brown sugar, packed

½ cup butter

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Butter a small baking sheet.  Spread pecans in a single layer.  Heat butter and brown sugar to boiling in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly for 7 minutes (note – you MUST stir quickly and constantly or it will easily burn and don’t shorten the amount of boiling time).  Immediately spread mixture over pecans on baking sheet.  It cools quickly, so get is spread – you might have time to help it cover, but use the back of spoon – it’s too hot to handle.  Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot mixture and quickly cover with a plate or tin foil.  Let melt, then using that spoon, spread melted chips in an even layer.  Refrigerate until firm.  Break toffee into pieces.

Tip – clean up your pot as soon as possible or the toffee really sticks.

So cold outside right now, i just set outside to cool vs refrigerating. It’s amazing how hot the stone pan got with the toffee so i set it up on a baking rack.

Pops out easily and breaks nicely into pieces. Ready to eat!

snapshotsincursive

Experience the Holidays: Traditional English Toffee! So often we have those cherished childhood memories of homemade candy and cookies that accompanied holiday celebrations. They stick with us for life. I can remember being in eighth grade and determined to replicate a batch of my mother’s English Toffee. I waited for her to go into town and then pulled out her secret recipe. You know, the ones scratched on a 3.5”x5” card. More often than not, they showed a list of ingredients with instructions that simply said, “Bake at 350° for 30 minutes”. Let’s face it, that’s pretty vague compared to what we explain nowadays. As you can imagine, I melted the butter along with the brown sugar and stirred. And stirred. And stirred. So how come it wasn’t turning into this crisp crunchy texture of rich golden butter that fueled my addiction? What could I possibly be doing wrong? There…

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Shopping Responsibly

A photo and comment showed up on Facebook recently that misleadingly and irresponsibly tries to justify laziness and poor eating habits as an excuse for being overweight. Well, that’s quite a hard thing to put together, i know, so i’ll copy the article here. Clearly, the author has selected items which are likely imported and out of season as well as being convenience and snack type foods. These types of selections are nearly always the most expensive choices. Anyone on a budget needs to shop smarter. If you can’t afford organic, don’t buy organic – buy the best you can afford. Historically, food is cheaper than it’s ever been!

Item# lbsprice/lbtotal price
Carrots2 $     0.80 $     1.60
Onions1 $     0.90 $     0.90
Potatoes3 $     1.00 $     3.00
ground beef2 $     3.00 $     6.00
chicken4 $     1.00 $     4.00
sugar1 $     1.60 $     1.60
zucchini2 $     1.00 $     2.00
oats3 $     1.15 $     3.45
milk4.3 $     0.50 $     2.15
apples3 $     1.60 $     4.80
butter1 $     1.99 $     1.99
eggs (doz)1 $     1.50 $     1.50
Flour2 $     0.90 $     1.80
Total $   34.79
For fun, i quickly put together a sample shopping list of items not on sale which adds up to a bit more than $32. Now, i’m going to be very clear – this list is commodity, cheap, and not environmentally friendly food stuffs and i would not buy these items where i am in my life. I can afford more costly, more humanely raised, healthier choices, including that which i raise of it in my own garden.

Real food is not expensive to buy – don’t be fooled – do your homework.

Shop responsibly and wisely.

Quick Kansas Getaway

It’s ridiculous to take a short getaway, but guess i feel stressed and boxed in, so i left Monday afternoon – not really having any schedule though i did have some places i hoped to explore.

A lake at Watkins Mill State Park – not much to do here unless you have never seen a lake and want to walk three miles around it. Otherwise, mask wearing is required inside the museum and center – i skipped that.
View from high point of the Konza PrairieTrail south of Manhattan, Kansas – this hike is a must see and do. It’s not easy all the way through, but only bits and pieces are strenuous. By and large, it’s a casual hike. The views and foliage are stunning – not so stunning was the constant traffic noise. But don’t pass this up if you have time. It was cold and misty when i hiked and still enjoyed it a lot. Total i hiked this park was 4.4 miles, but total available to hike is 6 miles.
Truly it must have been a vision of heaven on earth as early settlers topped this hill and looked over tall prairie grasses, a wide river, and farmable bottom grounds.

Tallgrass native prairies grasses grow as tall as my head.

Next up was an enjoyable drive to The Land Institute. Unfortunately, due the china flu plandemic, they were not offering tours of their research and greenhouses, but they do have this land that can be hiked. It will be nice to go back to get the lowdown on if they are accomplishing anything worthwhile.
Part of the hike of the Marty Bender Nature Area and Trail. It was an easy hike and outing. Nothing fabulous, but good exercise. Worth the time.
Today’s hike was in high winds and an unusual heat wave for one day! It was 80 degrees when i started and 85 by the time i accomplished only 7.1 miles of this Tallgrass Prairie Hiking trails managed by The Nature Conservancy. I was almost back to the gate – like 100 yards – and there was a big ole bison on the path. They are unpredictable and warnings everywhere to turn back should this happen. But no way was i going to turn back at this point! i did take a wide berth by walking through the grass well away from him and not between him and the few mates a short distance away. This photo is taken at the Scenic Overlook 1495 feet. With the sustained winds at 30 mph and gusting to 48 – i was certainly walking and standing at an angle to be upright.
A new mate sharing the path with me.

After a hot afternoon of hiking at the Preserve, the next morning was greeted with a freeze warning – no different than Missouri!

On my way home, i discovered a farm run winery. I think it is important to support other farmers and ranchers by purchasing their good products. This one also provides a lovely wedding and reception venue.

White Tail Run Winery – Edgerton, Kansas

Here i’m enjoying a glass of wine from White Tail Run Winery by fall evening fire.

Avery Bright – Fiddler

As you know from reading my blog, I home educated my three children for 13 years. Jessica, the eldest, started her homeschool career as a 5th grader, Dallas started 3rd grade, and Nathan started kindergarten and all home schooled through high school graduation. Our three excelled in all manner and two had crazy excellent college academically, but more importantly, through struggle became stronger Christians and spiritual leaders. Dallas, with his challenges with Asperger’s is a huge help on the farm full time. (I am blessed more than i can ever deserve with 3 fabulous children.) On top of that, we made fast friends who were also home schooling families and we are still friends as families.

Just this week, an article was published about our dear friend and fellow home schooler, Avery Bright, concerning his time at Wheaton College and beyond. We remember him as the little boy in cowboy boots running around the churchyard playing tag and soccer, transplanting seedlings in the greenhouse, milking cows at home, or showing pigs in 4-H. But always with his violin practicing, practicing, practicing. From his performances as a middle and high schooler at a local church to raise money for the camps he needed to attend to improve his skills to purchasing his home made CD’s “Jersey Lightning” and “Avery Bright” and later a great Christmas album to boost his coffers to drive to the next amazing endeavor, to driving 12 hours to attend his wedding to his beautiful bride, we’ve always loved and supported Avery and his amazing journey. His brother and sister are no slackers either with their stunning accomplishments – all coming from our dear friends, Eric and Hope – good people who we can always count on for a heart to heart.

Find his music on Spotify at these links:

Or follow all his music at Avery Bright to find all the albums he’s participated on.

Getting off the Page with Avery Bright ’10

SHARE Home / News / Recent News / 2020 / August / Alumnus making music during COVID-19 August 27, 2020

How 2010 alumnus Avery Bright’s Wheaton experience equipped him with the technical and creative skills he needed to thrive as a professional musician during COVID-19.

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Since graduating from Wheaton a decade ago, Avery Bright ’10 has become a professional musician, composer, and producer, working with recording artists ranging from U2 to Michael W. Smith to Phil Wickham, Danny Gokey, Ben Rector, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Little Big Town, and OneRepublic. He’s also played on Star Wars movie scores, spent time in-studio with Dolly Parton, toured Europe, and has played in the pit for arena concerts for rock bands including The Who and Paramore.

When coronavirus began to spread in the U.S. in March 2020, the live music industry turned upside down. Tours, weddings, and live concerts dried up almost completely. Artists and performers had to adapt to remote work quickly–something Bright had been unknowingly preparing to do for years.

Bright has his own recording studio inside of his home outside Nashville, which has provided him with the flexibility to maintain remote work for hire during the global outbreak of COVID-19. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, Bright worked with clients all over the world–from Colombia to Russia to the UK and Tasmania, Australia–and was able to grow that side of his business as the pandemic threatened the production of live music worldwide.

“I feel very fortunate about the way I’m set up to record remotely from my studio,” Bright said. “I had no idea that it would play well into a global pandemic. I love the connections it’s created for me with artists and producers around the world.”

As a professional musician, session musician, arranger, and composer, Bright divides his time between playing in major studio sessions around Nashville, composing original works on commission for licensing in videos, movies, and video games from his home recording studio called “The String Cell,” and writing and performing original songs and covers as individual artist “RØRE” and as part of duos “Allen & Bright” and “kïngpinguïn.”

Bright credits his Conservatory training, private lessons with Dr. Lee Joiner, and his participation as fiddle player in a student-led bluegrass band called “Tim Dennison and the Creepers” with fellow Wheaties Tim Dennison ’11, Dan Fager ’10, Scott Cunningham ’10, Caleb Lindgren ’10, and Lee McComb ’10 as major contributing factors to his adaptability, flexibility, and success in Music City today.

“I was always sort of the black sheep of the Conservatory because I was at Wheaton for the classical training, but I played in a bluegrass band as a fiddle player and liked to improvise,” Bright said. “My teacher, Dr. Joiner, was always supportive of this. He explored playing jazz and was open to ‘getting off the page,’ as it were. So I always felt comfortable at Wheaton exploring those spaces, and I learned the violin world was much bigger than the obvious path of playing professionally in a symphony or string quartet. Nobody ever told me to stop thinking creatively.”

Bright’s music theory courses at the Conservatory were also integral in preparing him for his career.

“My Conservatory training helped prepare me for some of the technical requirements to execute on studio work like playing in tune and sight reading. I also learned the importance of being flexible,” Bright said. “Those are must-haves for a recording musician. I also learned how to work with different types of people, how to write my own music, and how to think beyond what’s on the page. Wheaton was amazing preparation for that.”

Bright noted that his participation as a fiddle player with Tim Dennison and the Creepers was a highlight of his Wheaton experience.

“There’s no way any of us will ever play in a band that had that much fun,” Bright said. “We all knew it, too: ‘This is as good as it gets.’”

Bright pointed out that, while the transition to working in the COVID-19 pandemic has been very difficult for people and musicians who are completely live-music based–touring musicians with bands, or road crews for big tours, for example–he noted that a lot of artists have pivoted to remote recording and production of livestream concerts, where artists are able to connect with their fan bases and play live online.

“At this time, the silver lining to not being able to play live is you have a golden opportunity to be creative,” Bright said. “People are making EPs from home, writing new songs, doing co-writes on Zoom or Skype, and are finding ways to make it work.”

Bright also pointed out that some larger recording studios are opening back up for business, but at an expense.

“Since March, I’ve played a couple of large recording sessions with 12 players on the floor in the recording room—we were all six feet apart, everyone was in a mask for the whole session. It was all done according to safety regulations, but it’s more expensive and difficult that way now because of the regulations and takes longer,” Bright said. “You also can’t have as many people as you normally would in the studio. All of that takes work, time, and money.” 

Looking to the future, Bright is building out a new studio space above his garage that is larger than his current studio space and will enable him to record ensembles rather than solely overdubs by himself.

“It’s a custom-designed, sound-isolated ‘floating’ room, big enough for four-to-six string players at a time, which will speed up my workflow and productivity a lot,” Bright said. “I’ll also be able to hire more of my friends and colleagues and attract bigger budget projects while providing an incredibly high quality of sound.”

Looking forward to his expanded home studio space is one way Bright is encouraging himself and others around him to “look for the silver lining” in the midst of a global pandemic.

ZUcchini & Cheese Casserole

Here’s my throw together recipe – adjust yours to taste and preference.

  • 3 cups spiralized or sliced zucchini
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • Sea salt
  • butter or olive oil

On low to medium heat saute onions and zucchini in butter or olive oil until desired softness, sprinkle in flour and stir to thicken, then add eggs and stir to mix. Add salt and mozzarella and cheddar. Stir until blended, then top with Parmesan – turn off heat and cover. Once the Parmesan is slightly melted, serve it up.

Now, to jazz this up by adding protein and calories, i would cook up some sliced beef sausage or home made beef sausage, then in the same pan, continue with this recipe.

Simple, easy, delicious!

Easy stovetop preparation. Add beef or lamb sausage for a hardier meal.

Making SAUSAGE

Sausage can be expensive to buy, but it’s easy to make at home with a bit of effort and time. However, you may find that if you have lean sausage, it will be more difficult to break into small pieces. I usually cook it, then chop it in a food mill if i want small pieces like i use as pizza toppings.

  • 1 lb ground beef or lamb
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground or leaf sage
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Thaw out the ground beef or lamb, then thoroughly mix in the spices. It is best to allow this to meld at least 24 hours. Typically, i make a couple pounds at a time, then freeze it back up in 1/2 lb packages. Then just thaw out as much as needed.