Sunday, August 4, 2013


One of the things Ryan and I discovered at the beginning of our relationship is that we both *love* surprises. Anything that is good is made great by making it a surprise. Whether it's the anticipation or the thrill of a sudden reveal, surprises are fabulous. 
     In that spirit, Ryan planned a special little trip for us this weekend.  A surprise trip. :)  We took off Friday afternoon and spent the evening relaxing, reading, and watching a movie in Moline. Ryan and I both looked at each other at one point and had the same thought - isn't it great to not have something to be away from our lists of to-do's at home. Saturday brought a Target trip(!) before heading to Le Claire, Iowa, home to American Picker's Antique Archeology.  Mike and Frank weren't in, but we did see some of their "picks." 

This was followed by a delightful lunch on the patio of the Candlelight Inn in Clinton, Iowa.  This blessing was amplified by the near-perfect weather that is oh-so rare in August.  

We then grabbed some ice cream on our way to the big surprise of Saturday - spending the night with friends, Tim and Hannah, and their precious newborn, Amelia!  

Sunday morning we headed east to my final surprise of our trip...the Starved Rock Lodge's Amazing Race!!! A more appropriate destination/activity I could not imagine.  There was definitely a little nervous energy radiating between us as we received our backpacks and instructions for the day.  Eight teams of two to four people received their first clue and we were all off running. Through the venture we climbed to Starved Rock, were mentally challenged by identifying facts and mathematical tasks, deciphering clues, and running around to various businesses in nearby Utica, Il.  I hoped for an eating challenge, as we may have excelled particularly in that area. But alas, no ice cream challenges.  We finished the race second, but had there been an award for most fun, we would have taken it.  

In the end, it was a great surprise.  But it was the company that made the trip perfect.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Rain: by Ryan

As a farmer, I see rain as a funny thing.  I'm rarely happy about the amount, it's timing, whether it arrives in a hard or soft fashion, or whether we even need it at the moment....because I'm apparently a self-designated genius about how, when, where, and how much rain is needed at any given time.

I have no control over the rain, regardless of how much I want to, so I do my best as a steward of the land that has been entrusted to me to plant the right seeds, use the right amount of fertilizer, keep the weeds out, and grow the best crop I know how with the resources I have.  This has been a tough spring.  The saying goes,..."Rain makes Grain"...which is true, if you get the rain in July and August, when you really need it.  If so much of it comes in April, May, and half of June that you can barely find 6 days out of those 70 or so days to do field work it makes me think, "Rain doesn't make makes grumpy farmers."  I will confess my selfish prayers.  The latter part of May, I was praying to God for the rain to stop.  I knew He could do that, but I also knew He was probably looking at a larger picture my little Ryan brain couldn't get wrapped around, and I was OK with that.....mostly.  But He was faithful.  He did stop the rain (hopefully not for good) long enough for us to get everything planted the first and second time.  The point I'm attempting to make is God's timing often doesn't line up with my ideal mental plan.  As concerned as I get about rain or no rain, I have no control over it.  God tells us to be faithful with what He entrusts to us, which I attempt to do, and He'll take care of the rest.  Nothing I do in the field would be fruitful if God didn't take part in it.

The same could be said for another kind of seed.  There are people I pray for everyday, people I would like to have know about the salvation that Jesus has offered us.  I can pray for them, talk to them, be a friend to them, go out of my way to care for them, but ultimately, I can only plant a seed in that person.  God is the one who controls the rain to make that seed grow too.  We have to trust that he will bring the physical rain for the crops in my fields, and the spiritual rain to grow the seeds we've planted in the people we love.

"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." 1 Cor. 3:6-7

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bitter Seeds

So Ryan and I have taken to watching our public television stations when nothing else good is on.  Really, it's often on in the background while we do other things. 
But tonight I was captivated.  

Bitter Seeds, which aired on our WQEC station tonight, told the compelling story of rural Indian farmers in a cycle of debt because of biotechnology which, from my estimation, does not seem suited to their environmental and financial circumstances.  

Farmers are charged a premium for BT Cotton (this is all farmers - Indian, American, German, etc).  For those of you, who like me, are wondering, What's BT cotton?  It's cotton that's been genetically modified to prevent infestation of boll weevils, theoretically improving the plant and yields.  In India, the beginning of the problematic cycle starts with BT cotton being the only option for seed these rural farmers are given.  Conventional seed (i.e. non-GMO seed) is not available.  While BT Cotton seed is supposed to be low-maintenance, these farmers are forced to borrow money in order to buy the necessary fertilizer in addition to the cost of the seed.  And because of harsh growing conditions, particularly low rainfall, the costly seed often does not yield as it should.  They are so poor they could never dream of the luxury of irrigation for their modest 2 acre farm...they are too strapped trying to scrape together a dowry for their daughters. 

This broken system in India is producing farmers who are so indebted, so despondent, they are committing suicide. By the thousands.  The rate of suicide among these rural farmers is four times...FOUR TIMES the rate of suicide in urban areas of India.

Since watching the program tonight, I've had an internal struggle about where the problem really exists.  My emotional pendulum swung from blaming Monsanto for not being a responsible distributor to vulnerable populations, to blaming the Indian seed dealers who are likely taking advantage of kick-backs they receive for selling high-royalty seed.  But to place blame so hastily would be wrong.   Like so many things, I believe it is a systemic problem.  A dysfunctional cycle which is self-maintaining.  My heart breaks for the fathers who struggle to provide but can't.  For the wives who can only watch helplessly as their husbands' toil leads only to further dejection.  For the children who no longer have fathers;  Who, as the program so poignantly notes, are victimized twice - once, when losing their father's protection, and twice, when losing their childhood.  

I am reminded of how fortunate we are in America.  I have no easy solutions to the problems presented in Bitter Seeds.  Many of the technologies developed by Monsanto are very good, very helpful to American farmers.  But are they more suited to larger-scale farms?  Perhaps to those farms which have more capital to purchase fertilizers and irrigation, if necessary?  I don't have the answers.  Just a lot of questions.

While I pray for a resolution to the farmers' dilemma, ultimately my prayer is for these farmers, and for everyone, to know the One who is have God's Word planted in their hearts, producing eternal life and the love of Christ.  Then it could be said of them, "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy." (Psalm 126:5).  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tomorrow will be the day...

So Ryan and I have welcomed home six new chicks this spring...sadly, one went the way of the dodo bird.   

So we're down to five - two Golden Laced Wyandottes, one Easter Egger, one Rhode Island Red, and one Sussex.  We got the Sussex a bit after the other four, and you can tell by their size.  

So Ryan and I have had a dilemma...when do we transition the bigger girls outside to the hen house?  We don't want them to be run over by the hens.  Believe me, they can really throw their weight around.    
But we have just about had our fill of them in the second bathroom.  

Leaving the house today Ryan closed that door because their aroma had started to permeate the house.  Not ideal.  But this would prove a critical, perhaps providential, decision.

So when I got home today and checked on the little feathery fluff balls, I got a surprise....

Chicken poo on the floor. 

We had an escapee...
someone had peaced out...
flown our cardboard coop...

And she had the courage to show her face...

Cheep! Cheep!!

Moral of the story - when chicks can fly...they can fly their way outside to the big girls' coop.  Tomorrow will be the day.  So nice of them to decide for us. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Signs of Spring

Spring has come tip-toeing in this year.  And despite being nearly a week into spring, we have seen only a few signs of its entrance.  Because we have 6+ inches of snow blanketing the fields around us, I thought I'd share a few of the subtle signs of spring I've noticed...

Easter egg hunts...

Crocus and other spring flowers...

Kids & Chicks...

And super cute chicks...the little one is sleeping on the bigger one's back...

So fret not the snow...for spring is on its way!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Driving in the Snow

One of the particular privileges of living in the country is driving to and from work.  I love me some rural roads in the down and sunroof wide open.  But in the winter it's a different story.  

In general I have a love-hate relationship with my drive to work.  I love it in the morning, except when I have to be somewhere particularly early.  I dislike it in the evening, except on those really stressful days when I need my mind and surroundings to be silent for awhile.  As it is for those who live in the city, commuting for me has been complicated by our recent snow and winter weather.  

Don't get me wrong...I love the snow.  If it's got to be cold, then bring on the snow.  But it does present some significant challenges when trying to travel.  

Back in late December we had a considerable snow, and I left work early on a Thursday in order to get home before it got really bad.  I had the same thing happen just this past Thursday.  After arriving home last week I began to compare the two experiences.  

While visibility was particularly problematic during the December drive, I followed a snow plow nearly the entire way home.  It was an interesting experience - I was actually fifth in a line of cars behind the snow plow.  And I think we were all pretty happy to be there.  While there were moments of blowing snow which entirely concealed the car just yards in front of me, I could almost always see the elevated flashing lights of the plow.  And I had a sense of calm despite the whirlwind around me.  The plow knew the way and was clearing the path for us.  

And it made me think of Jesus.  How through craziness and confusion, the blizzards of life, He asks us to follow Him.  To trust His leadership through those situations which are troubling...terrifying... uncertain...or even mundane.  He has promised to be with us always - as our Savior, but also as our Friend and our Peace.  

The snow plow reminded me of something important - I don't always have to know the path.  I just have to know the One who does.  And follow Him very closely.  
Funny, He even called himself The Way.    

I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. ~Jesus, Quoted in John 14:6. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Another one bites the dust...

That title may seem callous.  It may not convey the depth of our dismay.  
But it's true...

We've lost another chicken.  

But we honestly don't know how.  

Last Thursday night Ryan counted the chickens before closing up the coop for the night.  



Not to be alarmed, Ryan recounted.  Eight again.  A spastic Red was missing.  

He looked around outside briefly before he had to leave.  No sign of the auburn, foul. to Saturday.  I noticed an abnormal number of auburn feathers on the east side of our house.  The setting was sinister.  Surely this was the scene of the crime.  But besides the feathers, no other evidence has been found.  (This was like CSI: Sutter).  

We have our suspicions...and surprisingly they don't include our dog.  
My guess is a hawk because we believe it happened during the day and I don't think a coyote or fox would have ventured so close to the house where the fearsome Casey was posted nearby.  

Anyone else have ideas about a possible cunning daytime predator?  


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Da...Da...DaWHAT?? Dahinda!!

Ryan planned a short trip to celebrate our anniversary...but it was a surprise!  All I knew was that we would be driving and that our destination would be 3-4 hours away.  One might think that really narrows the field, but a four hour radius around Sutter really does provide numerous possibilities.

Branson, Galena, Southern Illinois, Kansas City, St. Louis...these had all crossed my mind.  But after heading north and meandering through rural roads, these slowly got crossed off my mental list of possibilities.   

Eventually, we hung a left at a sign for "Dahinda". 

Again...more rural roads...then we came to Dahinda...Da WHAT?!? Dahinda.  

We drove through THE Dahinda (which left something to be desired) and right up to a quaint farmstead tucked back into the base of a few small hills.  

*Still perplexed*
We're at someone else's house.  Hmm...???

Ryan pulled up to the sweet red barn (below)..."We're here!"

Long and short of it...The Barn was built by the owners as a bunk house.  It is a "peg barn", meaning its frame was built without the use of nails - only wooden pegs.  It was later converted into a Bed & Breakfast.  

Here's a glimpse into the "horse stall kitchen" complete with an ice box and working vintage gas stove.  

 The upstairs loft had sleeping for at least 9.  

After getting our bearings in "The Barn", we enjoyed some time in neighboring towns - we went line dancing (Ryan is the boot-scootin' master) and to a hockey game.  Ryan and I decided that 97% of hockey players have some sort of anger issue.  

All in all, the entire trip was refreshing.  It gave us an opportunity to reflect on the past year - all the Lord has done in our lives - we have so much for which we are grateful.  Our time at the Barn also provided time to pray and think about the coming year.  

Da Barn in Dahinda will always have a special place in da hearts of da Woods.  

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Year Two

Ryan and I have come upon and passed a milestone in our relationship - our first anniversary.  1.21.13 marked the beginning of Year Two for us.  We watched our wedding video, reliving our nuptials, and basked in the glow of our love.  It was lovely.  

Remembering the 1st Anniversary tradition, my sister asked me if we ate our cake top.  I told her, "You can't have your cake and eat it, too."  
Perplexed, she didn't say much.  
Then I clarified - We had already eaten the cake.  
Yes, that's right.  These two last-borns decided to go ahead and enjoy the cake last year when it was fresh rather than wait for its flavor to be enhanced by freezer burn and time.  

So, about a week later, a church event gave us a good excuse to make some cookies Ryan and I would both enjoy.  

Enter the easiest peanut butter cookies...ever.

All you need is 1 yellow cake mix, 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup peanut butter, and 2 eggs.  
Mix all together.  I rolled them into balls, flattened them slightly, put them on a cookie sheet, refrigerated them until they were firm, and baked them at 350 for 12 minutes.

We happened to have a bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup hearts. :)  

So, why not try putting them together???  

So if you're looking for a good substitution for your first anniversary when you've already eaten your cake...or just in the market for an easy can give it a try. :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

When the Chickens are Chicken...

With all the snow and colder temps that have stuck around from the end of December through the beginning of this year, the chickens (until today) have been hesitant...squeamish...well, just plain CHICKEN about coming out of the coop!  

Here they are on New Year's Day - perched on the threshold of the chicken door.  I imagine their conversation to be like kids looking outside on a cold winter day, wondering if it's going to be worth their while to go out and play when it's down-right frigid out there.  The hens ultimately decided that it was not worth their while.  Which, in some ways, may have been correct since there would be no worm for the early bird to get.  

Despite the fact that all our hens are "winter hardy", my guess is they're all wishing they had flown south with the rest of the snow birds.