Week 21, 2022

May 28th, 2022


Rain this week, which has been good and needed, and with it some cooler weather. An inch of rain Thursday and a third of an inch the day before. Fragrant outside from the multiflora rose, Chinese privet and other wild blooms. Some of the birds that were passing through on their migration north have left us, like the Rose-breasted grosbeak, but we are now hearing whippoorwills in the evening, and the flute-like Wood thrush fills the air during the day.

The phoebe chicks that were being raised on our porch finally took off one morning this week. Erica and I were there to see them all take off with a burst at the same time. They hit the porch ceiling, landed on the porch deck, flew into the side of the chest freezer, but eventually made it out and into a tree. Mom bird was 5 for 5 raising eggs into birds!

Play-doh on a rainy day
Wild strawberries the kids collected and turned into jam

Down On The Farm

We are trying to give the chickens some more time in the yard once our dog Anya is done outside for the day. Hopefully, we can get her used to the chickens to where she guards them instead of eating them. In other news, our garden is absolutely taking off. More pictures on that next week.

Best Thing We Ate

Braised barbecue chicken – same winner as last week, but this time it wins because we ate it with my parents who just arrived for a visit!

From Family Worship

We’re now into Chapter 21 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, “Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day”. Broadly, this chapter asserts that it is God alone who spells out for us how it is that we are to worship Him, our Creator. Certainly this is His prerogative. This is a wonderful and helpful truth that keeps things clear and simple, and guards the church from many peculiar innovations. The chapter also addresses the 4th commandment and states the church’s historic view of keeping the Lord’s Day as something special – a day set apart for Him. This, regrettably, has somehow become a very controversial thing among Christians in the last 50 years, or even less, and has largely fallen out of practice. In our family’s experience, keeping the Lord’s Day is not about a bunch of rules about what you can’t do, but more about not letting lesser things sneak in and spoil the gift of the Lord’s Day that God in His kindness has given to us. By God’s grace (because it wasn’t always this way), Sunday has truly become our favorite day of the week, something we look forward to all week long. To worship God morning and evening on the Lord’s Day, in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, is the clearest foretaste of heaven we will experience on this side of eternity.

Other Happenings

Splurged and went out to dinner in Cookeville one night
Riley has been working on her pressed wildflower art

Week 20, 2022

May 21st, 2022


It has been another warm, mostly dry week, with evenings cooling off into the 50’s and 60’s. We are through most of the pollen season, it seems, and things around us are starting to look more like summer time.

Getting water at the creek for the pigs one morning I interrupted a family of otter that were playing in the water. They scolded me as they swam away, and I was sorry I had not walked up slower to maybe have a chance to see them without first being seen.

We have an eastern phoebe who is raising chicks in a nest on top of a light fixture on our porch. All day long she brings insects to her brood, and it seems like they can never get enough. We marvel at the mother’s instincts to reproduce, from making the nest, guarding the eggs, and feeding the hatchlings.

Japanese honeysuckle

Down On The Farm

The red oak saplings we planted around the property are starting to wake up
Have maybe 40 apples total on our young trees
Black currant bushes have a little fruit
It looks like 6 of 10 apple tree grafts have taken

Best Thing We Ate

Braised chicken over rice with sautéed kale

From Family Worship

One evening we considered a portion of Psalm 106 where the psalmist recounts Israel’s history when they grumbled against their circumstances in the wilderness, just after God had miraculously delivered them through the Red Sea. If we’re honest, we can identify well with the Israelites, and can also learn from their poor example: instead of complaining (or worse) during difficulty, recall God’s prior faithfulness to preserve and uphold His people, and honor Him with trust, resting in His promises. Surely, He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, can be trusted in life’s trials.

Other Happenings

Big week for John…

Paige teaching John to shoot her long bow
John entertaining Quinn with a chicken impersonation
First official day of homeschool

Week 19, 2022

May 14th, 2022


Warm and dry with cool mornings, beautiful time of year. The birds are at their peak activity and fill the air with birdsong. More and more time is spent down by the creek to cool off after hard work.

Large clump of dead flies all gathered together at the end of a limb…strange

Down On The Farm

Mowing the grass, and cultivating and hoeing the garden rows are becoming the main work on the farm. Cows and pigs are gaining weight and look happy and healthy. Hens have settled into a laying routine. It has been a weird week, but I hope to have a better update on all of this next week.

Best Thing We Ate

Homemade pizza with bacon and pineapple, and kale salad from the garden.

From Family Worship

Erica ran the show while I was away this week, and it is always sorely missed when we can’t be all together, but the Lord is faithful to sustain and provide for all our needs. We finished our recap of the first fourteen chapters of the Westminster Confession of Faith, so this week we’ll forge ahead into new material starting with Chapter 15, “Of Repentance Unto Life”.

Other Happenings

I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with Quinn in the past week or so. We went on a nice hike together, and then she came with me on a business trip I took this week back to Florida. We stayed with my parents and she got to have some quality grandparent time. Hence the weird week as Erica and the rest were holding down the fort in TN.

Last Friday night the girls went to the spring ball for the English country line dancing class they’ve been participating in. Here they are with their friend Evelynne on the way to the ball.

Week 18, 2022

May 7th, 2022


Got a little less than a half inch of rain for three consecutive days, perfect for the new garden, then a good soaking rain yesterday. The spring wildflowers seem to have run their course for the year, their locations now shaded by the full leafing out of the trees. Incredible how fast that happened.

Cool blue crayfish in the creek

Down On The Farm

I ordered 50 red oak trees from the Kentucky Dept of Forestry for next to nothing, and so far we’ve planted about 30 of them around the edges of our property and in the woods. We don’t have many oaks, so hopefully this will add some diversity and ultimately replace some of our junky boxelder.

I clipped the pasture with tractor and bush hog in the hope that more sun will get to the low-growing clover. Once pasture gets mature it is not as palatable or nutritious for the cows, so we’ll probably clip the pasture 3-4 times during the growing season to keep it healthy. Overall, we’re impressed with the condition of our cows on this lush pasture, even without feeding any grain.

Red Oak saplings, bare root

Best Thing We Ate

A homemade apple pie with ice cream was made for company this week, and whenever that happens it is a shoe-in for best thing we ate. I should have taken a picture of it.

From Family Worship

Our friends from Florida, Matt and Pam, came to stay with us Wednesday night on their way to Michigan for the summer. It was great to have them join us for dinner, family worship, and an evening of catching up. The fellowship of the saints is a great blessing, and the shared bonds in Christ endure over the miles and years.

Other Happenings

First off, an amazing thing happened with our dog, Anya, who was run over by a truck (and trailer) last week. After getting hit, she ran off and disappeared for 36 hours, leaving us to assume the worst. But last Saturday night when we got home from being out, there she was on the back porch! She was tired, thirsty, and banged up, but she was back! We have no idea where she went or where she spent the night. Vet check up confirmed that she didn’t sustain any serious injuries.

We had the chance to go to a nearby barn dance that’s held twice a year, which we went to last October. The family that puts it on goes all out, including 500+ old fashioned dresses for the girls to have fun picking from in the days before the dance.

Music from a group of siblings
Cloggers putting on a show
Me and the little cowboy

This week marks a double anniversary of sorts. It has been exactly 3 years since we first visited the property here in Tennessee, and almost exactly 6 months since we moved here permanently from Florida. What a journey!

Here are some side-by-side pictures from when we first visited 3 years ago to look at the property listing (on the left) vs the same perspective this week (on the right).

Week 17, 2022

April 30th, 2022


Mild and pleasant spring weather is here. Winter clothes are put away until next year, and the shorts and flip flops have returned. Warm days and cool nights are the norm. Rain has been hit or miss, and we are really keyed in to the rain forecast since we don’t irrigate our garden. There’s something satisfying about depending on nature in this way.

Many new birds have been identified this week as summer migration is well underway. New birds identified by eye or ear include: Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, Orchard Oriole, Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and a few more. New wildflowers also, some growing in unusual and out of the way places.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Woodland Stonecrop
Shooting Star
Wild Geranium

Down On The Farm

On Thursday I took the day off work and we worked hard to plant the majority of our vegetable garden. The soil was just right, rain was in the forecast, and most importantly, there was no chance of frost in the extended forecast.

We planted 1,000 row feet of field corn, 200 tomato seedlings, hot peppers, cucumbers, watermelon, okra, summer squash, and cantaloupe. Still left to go in the ground are green beans, sweet potato slips, and then in mid-summer we’ll plant fall crops for winter storage.

Best Thing We Ate

Perhaps slightly unfair since Riley and I were the only ones to enjoy it, but we went to the local diner for lunch this week and had a nice time catching up about life. Riley is a remarkable young lady.

From Family Worship

We considered Chapter 13 of the Westminster Confession of Faith this week on the topic of sanctification, or the process that is at work in Christians to be more and more conformed to the image of Christ over time. This can be a slow and sometimes discouraging process, but the supreme encouragement is that God is faithful and that by His grace alone we will see “the regenerate part overcome”.

Other Happenings

A tragedy occurred yesterday morning when our dog, Anya, was struck by a passing vehicle. She popped right up and ran off, but hasn’t been seen since. We searched and searched for hours yesterday, with no sign of her. We’ll keep looking today, but have reason to fear the worst.

Week 16, 2022

April 23rd, 2022


“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.”

Ernest Hemingway

We’re probably past any false spring now with some days this week even in the 80’s, yet we did have another frost Tuesday morning when it got to 31. I don’t think that’s cold enough to damage apple blossoms. According to historical averages, we now have less than a 10% chance of seeing 28 degrees again, and a 30% change of seeing 32 degrees. So with the dogwoods just past their peak, and warm weather starting to come around, we are just a couple weeks away from being fully out of winter’s reach.

Roundleaf ragwort
Beaked cornsalad
Slender toothwart

Down On The Farm

The soil dried out just enough and we got the belt on the walk-behind tiller fixed, so it was time to cultivate between the rows of cabbage, kale and broccoli. The weeds are really starting to take off, but the plants are looking good.

Grafting fruit trees has interested me for a while, and spring is the time to do it, so we went for it. We purchased apple and pear rootstock (the bottom part of the tree) from a nursery in Washington, and then took scion wood (top part) from varieties in our garden, plus we bought a few new pear varieties online.

The rootstock determines the size of the tree, disease resistance, etc. and the scion determines the variety of fruit that you will produce. After a winter’s worth of watching YouTube videos I was ready to try it out.

A couple weeks ago we potted the bare root rootstock that came in the mail, and once those dormant rootstocks start to come to life, that’s when you want to get your scions out of the refrigerator where they’ve been kept dormant in ziploc bags. Then it is time to graft.

The graft union is sealed with parafilm so it doesn’t dry out, and if it works, the rootstock will send life up to the scion via the cambium layer just inside the bark – that’s what you’re trying to match up in the graft.


We also got our seed potatoes in the ground this week. We planted 20# each of Yukon Gold, Kennebec and Red Pontiac. We should get at least a 6:1 yield, but we’ll see.

Best Thing We Ate

We were supposed to have Easter dinner with friends, but had been sick with a cold and decided to stay home and not share our germs. But beforehand, we traded ham for mashed potatoes and pie, and so we all got to eat a very nice Easter dinner.

From Family Worship

We talk regularly with the children about how they are adjusting to the move from Florida to Tennessee. It is no small thing to leave the place you’ve lived your whole life and completely start over, and if we as adults feel the weight of this, what are our children experiencing?

There are, of course, individual differences amongst the children about how they’ve felt, and how much homesickness they’ve experienced since moving, but they all attest to the same thing: God has been incredibly gracious to us since arriving. He has not left us lonely and isolated, only to pine for the people we miss in Florida, but from the start He has brought us swiftly into sweet new friendships and a kind and welcoming church. These have been immeasurable blessings to us during this time of change.

Do we continue to deeply miss our loved ones in Florida? Of course, how could we not? But we are overwhelmed with God’s bountiful care and provision since arriving. It has far exceeded my hope or expectation for what we would all experience.

Other Happenings

Erica and I went out for dinner last night, which we haven’t done since our anniversary in December. We went to an Irish pub in Gainesboro that was recommended to us, and it was a great time to get caught up and enjoy each other (and some amazing corned beef & cabbage).

Week 15, 2022

April 16th, 2022


Cold last weekend, some flurries in the air Saturday afternoon while I was building the chicken nest box. Then, some good rains during the week, with hopefully a dry stretch ahead so we can get more of the garden worked up and planted.

My biggest concern is a possible late frost that might injure the blossoms on our early apple varieties and the earliest gooseberries.

Credit goes to Riley this week for identifying several new wildflowers for us. Each week or two has new discoveries as they take their turns coming up.

Dwarf larkspur
Jacob’s ladder
Striped cream violet
Fernleaf phacelia
Philadelphia fleabane
Getting the living room warm before the family gets up

Down On The Farm

I spent last Saturday getting this nest box built for the hens, and also building a pig trough and waterer.

Communal nest box with outside access to collect eggs
Pig waterer, we fill by bucket because there’s no running water by the pig pen

I’m proud of us for how we have worked hard to create a farm out of a vacant piece of property. There is always an endless number of future projects (which is how we like it), but the basic building blocks of animals and infrastructure are now in place to produce our own beef, chicken, pork, dairy, eggs, fruit and vegetables. It is a rich life to be immersed in the vitality of plants and animals, both wild and domestic, and to know the daily rhythm of farm life within the larger rhythm of the seasons.

Best Thing We Ate

Finally, some eggs of our own!!

From Family Worship

This week, we rounded out Chapter 11 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, “Of Justification”, by wondering at the truth that God has been saving sinners in the Covenant of Grace (see Chapter 7) since immediately after Adam’s fall, and that believers in the Old Testament were justified in the exact same way as people are justified now in the New Testament era, by faith that receives and rests in Jesus Christ.

How can this be if Christ was unknown by name, etc., in the OT? As Sinclair Ferguson helpfully explains, people before Christ’s incarnation had the promise of the coming Messiah, along with many types and shadows, and their faith in these things was as real and genuine as our faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In every age, justification has always been by faith alone, in Christ alone.

Other Happenings

These two are inseparable

Week 14, 2022

April 9nd, 2022


A steady, gentle rain all day Tuesday really brought on more spring change. The forest floor that was previously bare is all of a sudden carpeted in green. We only needed one fire for warmth this week and on a few nice days we had the windows open.

Down On The Farm

I got word of an annual Amish auction not too far from us where small livestock would be auctioned, and along with horse drawn equipment, antiques, etc.

Since we were in need of a new flock of laying hens, we decided to load up and see what we could find. Boy were we in for a treat!

It was a huge event with over 7,000 people and 10 separate auction rings operating all day, lots of other vendors, and wonderful Amish food for sale. They loved to see my English dollars coming!

After a while of standing at one of the auction rings and not doing much, I decided to go get an Amish fried fruit pie, and left Erica with our bidding number and in charge of our bidding, should she see something worth while. Best decision I could have made.

Apprehensive at first, Erica soon got a look in her eye which would have intimidated even the most intrepid bidders competing with her. She wisely set herself up where she could see what the upcoming lots would be, and deftly managed to purchase for us 10 laying hens and two roosters, at good prices.

John working on his auctioneer cadence after we got home

Best Thing We Ate

Easy winner – Amish Fry Pies!

From Family Worship

Martin Luther said about justification that it is the doctrine by which the church stands or falls. Some say that “doctrine divides” and should be avoided, but that is nonsense. Yes, a person can wield doctrine foolishly, but we ought to have a zeal for understanding God’s revealed word, the Bible. And knowing that eternity hangs in the balance, we ought to pursue right thinking with hearty effort.

Justification is the act of God to pardon the sinner, and account and accept them as righteous by imputing (crediting) the obedience and satisfaction of Christ to them. We cannot recommend ourselves to God for salvation on account of our good works or obedience, for when we understand ourselves rightly, we know we have nothing in ourselves to commend us to a Holy God.

As we discussed this week as a family, we must look outside of ourselves to another, namely, Jesus Christ, whose perfect obedience is ours by faith, not by works. That is, a faith that receives and rests on the finished and perfect work of Christ to save us.

Other Happenings

Major League Baseball opening day was this week, and on Thursday night we listened on the radio as the Braves hosted the Reds. We are sad that Freddie Freeman is gone, what a great guy and face of the franchise. Interesting fact – Freeman is from California and has been the face of the Braves, but is now a Dodger. His replacement, Matt Olson, has been the face of the Oakland A’s, but was born and raised in Georgia. Since we are only a few hours away, I wonder if we might go see a Braves home game sometime.

Our church hosted a fun little talent show Friday night, and we had a few participants from our family. Riley recited a poem, Sam and Quinn played piano pieces, Paige helped John recite a Bible verse, and I got to MC and tell some bad jokes, along with providing a short devotional on 1 Cor 12:18 which was hopefully fruitful.

Week 13, 2022

April 2nd, 2022


The weather was warm and windy until a front came through Wednesday night. It was supposed to be a big rain maker, but we only got about a third of an inch. March has been windy, which is expected, and you can sense the transition of seasons.

The trees on the forested hillsides are starting to break dormancy and the allergy sufferers in our family are feeling it, but the milder weather, wildflowers and other spring beginnings make up for it.

This week we’ve noticed bats at dusk, carpenter bees, and lots of new wildflowers.

Fire pink
Common blue violet

Down On The Farm

We are moving rapidly here as we get things going for the new season. We worked together to build a chicken coop inside a portion of the barn, and we’ve also got the pigs settled into their pen.

Our 100 strawberry plants and 25 asparagus crowns arrived this week, so the girls helped get those in the ground before a rainy week ahead.

Strawberry plant
Asparagus crown, looks like an Octopus

Best Thing We Ate

One night this week Erica made Bolognese sauce over pasta with a nice salad and homemade bread…sublime.

From Family Worship

We have recently begun trying to sing parts and harmonize, but it has been a humbling experience. We make sure our windows are closed so our kind neighbor doesn’t have to be subjected to our singing. Samantha plays enough piano to be able to accompany us with the melody and harmony, and in our efforts we frequently remind ourselves that it is the heart that the Lord is concerned with!

We moved into chapter 11 of the Westminster Confession, which deals with justification. The grounds of our justification before God is one of the most important things to have a clear grasp of, so we’ll likely spend a good amount of time working through what the Scriptures teach here.

Other Happenings

Erica’s parents, Mark and Lois, came to visit us from Charleston, SC, and we had a very nice visit with them this week. Family is a wonderful encouragement to see, especially when you are in a new place. We did a little local sight seeing, but mostly just spent time together and enjoyed each other’s company.

Week 12, 2022

March 26th, 2022


Chilly as the week went on, but spring keeps coming.

Virginia bluebells
Purple finch (female), a lifer for both Riley and I

Down On The Farm

Big week on the farm as we are chomping at the bit to continue building a farm from scratch here in Tennessee. The process of building our farm in Florida was similar, with the big advantage now of having learned (hopefully) from our mistakes.

The girls were instrumental in helping me put up the three-strand electric fence around our pasture, which allowed us to finally let out the cows just as the grass starts to grow.

We also started our tomato and pepper seeds in flats, with the plan to transplant them to the garden in early May after the last chance of frost.

Each year we raise a couple of pigs for the freezer, and the plan here in TN is to get them in the spring, feed them to weight, and then butcher them in late fall. The pigs that I’ve seen for sale have not lasted long, so when I saw a group of weaned pigs become available I jumped at the chance. We got four because the breed won’t be as large as what we are used to.

Autumn beauty apple, first apple to break dormancy so far

Best Thing We Ate

From Family Worship

We continue to work through Romans at breakfast, wading through chapter 11 and considering the expansion of God’s covenant of grace to now include the Gentiles as well as the Jews. What is the place of Israel after Christ’s arrival? Did God save differently in the Old Testament than He does new in the New Testament age? Revisiting the Westminster Confession Chapter 7, “Of God’s Covenant with Man” was helpful.

Under the gospel, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed, are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper; which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.

WCF 7:6

Other Happenings

A determined hooper
These trucks were my Dad’s when he was a boy and they are still getting good use!