Chore Break: The Butter Churn

A new season is upon us. I’m not just talking about fall (I know, I know it isn’t fall yet…still I have picked my pumpkins and the apple tree is heavy with fruit)! It’s a new season at Old Stone Well Farm Media & Ministry as today I launch midweek meditations called “Chore Break at Old Stone Well Farm.” This time together is a time to slow the rush of the week and find a space to recenter, reconnect and turn our eyes back toward Christ. And so, enjoy!!!

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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Wash Day

What do I do on my staycation? I write, pray and do the wash the old fashioned way. Come and join me. I promise you won’t have to tend to the fire to keep the water hot. But I will ask for you to get comfy, light a candle, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and hear the word of God speaking to you today. Blessings!

James 1:17-27
New Revised Standard Version
17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[a] 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
19 You must understand this, my beloved:[b] let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves[c] in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

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Tilting at Windmills

Well, I am packing up and getting ready to return to Vermont. And so, a short greeting to welcome you to this week’s time together as we ponder those imaginary giants that we battle with in our lives. Are you tilting at windmills? It’s time to turn our eyes away from the things that drag us down, and look at all the God possibilities that are in our lives. See you next week back at the farm!

Blessings, Pastor Donna

Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

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An Eye on Tomorrow: A Special Southampton, NY Edition

Toto we are not in Kansas anymore…or Vermont. This Accidental Country Pastor in Southampton, New York, guest preaching for the Rev. Sarah Bigwood of First Presbyterian Church in the village of Southampton.

While some come here for the beach, the high-end shopping and great restaurants I, of course, find myself exploring the area’s rich 17th-century history — and houses. Yes, I am in my glory to be surrounded by many houses built in the 1600s.

But exploring these old houses got me thinking about past generations and generations to come. More importantly, what are we building for tomorrow? Are our eyes on eternal things as 2 Corinthians talks about? Or do the actions we take and the decisions me make, based on material gain and comfort?

Come. Join me for a special edition of worship in Southampton. And make sure to watch the end, as I share a funny behind the scenes story.

Blessings,

Pastor Donna

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

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Breaking the Swiss Bread Together

Happy Swiss National Day! August 1 is a big celebration in my family. It was in 1291 that the Swiss Confederacy was formed. Here at Old Stone Well Farm, I invite you to join me for a traditional Swiss breakfast of bread, cheese and jam as we explore Jesus’ words when he said that he is the bread of life. (The chickens make an appearance as well!) As always, thank you for coming to the farm. Enjoy. Share. Be blessed!

Mark 6:25-31,35

 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”  Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

An Empty Garden Bed

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I am getting the hang of gardening — slowly. And while my 18th-century kitchen garden is not quite yet the picture of the one in my dreams, the way it is thriving this year amazes me. It also makes me smile. But it’s not just the abundance of acorn squash or the pumpkins and corn that fills me with joy, it is the many God lessons I have learned through toiling in the soil.

I invite you join me for my morning walk through the garden as I share with you the flowers, herbs and vegetables that are growing. And I will tell you why I have kept a garden bed — or two — empty.

Blessings,

Pastor Donna

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Gone Fishing

Well, not really fishing, but I this country pastor will be taking a way overdue day of rest and relaxation, putzing in her garden and picking the abundance of Alpine strawberries and rhubarb!

Before I put my mucks on and head out into the garden, I wonder: If you were given a Sabbath day for complete rest and silence, what would you find yourself doing?

Share with me! And, as I pick each strawberry, I will lift a prayer of thanks for each one of you who faithfully join me at the farm. Blessings to you!!

Worship at Old Stone Well Farm

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A Chicken Coop Retreat

It’s been a cold and rainy summer here in Vermont, but I had a task to do: I wanted to inspect the chicken coop and begin getting it ready so that I can move my chickens into their new home. With the weather being on the damp and chilly side, though, I think that move will be delayed another week or so. I want to make sure the chickens are cozy.

But as I was in the coop, I couldn’t help but notice the peace and joy that began filling my heart. It had been a stressful week with writing deadlines, pending projects and, of course, the unexpected death of Fricassee. I am not sure what happened. A few chicken experts I spoke to didn’t seem too sure either. They concluded what a novice chicken farmer really doesn’t want to hear. That is, sometimes a young chicken will die for underlying health reasons we will never know.

The stress and sadness of the week, though, began fading away as I cleaned out the cobwebs and a hornet nest or two in the corners of the coop. I began thinking of the bright tomorrows God holds in His hands. As I sat inside the coop, I felt as if for a second I had escaped the pressures of the world. I felt a like a little girl in a playhouse, sneaking away from doing her chores and relishing in dreaming all the incredible possibilities of “when I grow up.” I also felt a stillness that was healing.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus invites his friends to come to a deserted place and rest. I found that rest in the coop. Where will you retreat to renew your Spirit? Will you accept Jesus’ invite?

Blessings!

Pastor Donna

Mark 6:30-34

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Gathering Around the Hearth

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While I might not have a huge open hearth to cook over in my 18th-century home, it hasn’t stopped me from dabbling in the art of primitive cooking. I’ve always been a believer that if you dream it — and begin living into the dream — that whatever you envision will come true.

And so, with the absence of an indoor hearth to cook over — and much to my husband’s chagrin — I have been purchasing the tools I need for that dream to materialize someday.

The pots are piling up waiting for a hearth to call home.
This is not my kitchen…but rather it is my dream kitchen.

The Dutch ovens are piling up in the kitchen, as are the various sized copper pots to hang from an iron rod. I have the iron spoons, spatulas, forks and ladles, all with long arms to prevent me from getting too close to the flames, hanging near my non-operational fireplace. I’ve also added a slew of 18th-century cookbooks to my reading list. I’m enjoying learning just what a hoe cake is and how delicious it sounds to wash down a piece of cornbread with some cherry bounce or to serve some syllabub — a Colonial whipped cream concoction enhanced with a good amount of sherry — rather than pie for dessert.

For now, any primitive cooking is done outside over the fire pit. Perhaps that is a good thing, as a fire blazing amid centuries-old wood and crumbling mortar is probably not ideal.

For long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with cooking over a flame. There’s just something comforting about gathering around a hearth filled with the smells of food bubbling, broiling and baking over glowing embers. Two years ago, I stepped back in time, entering a village of 18th century homes to master the art of open-hearth cooking. For three nights, I lived without electricity and running water. I even slept on a rope bed that was topped with a mattress filled with straw.

One of the old houses that are on the Eastfield Village property in New York. Eastfield Village has been created as a summer college for mastering the primitive arts, such as open-heart cooking, printing, blacksmithing, etc.
Some might dream of luxury homes with stat of the art appliances. This my friends, is my dream house. One of the homes at Eastfield Village.

Just a little bit of trivia here. The old saying, “sleep tight” comes from those rope beds as every night, before retiring, if you didn’t want to sleep on a sagging pile of blankets, you would have to tighten the ropes. “Sleep tight” was often followed with “and don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Did I mention my “mattress” was filled with hay? Luckily, there were no bugs biting me.

So for three days I lived in another time. It was heaven on earth! There was another “early living skills” class going on in the printer’s shop the same time my cooking class was being held. Someone in that group had a fiddle. One night, I came out of the hot kitchen and sat on the cool stone step and listened to the sounds of music and laughter filling the air. Dusk descended and slowly the houses began coming to life with just the peaceful glow of candles and fires that were being lit within. I closed my eyes and smiled. This was how I wanted to live. I vowed when I came back to the 21st century, I would fill my days with more candlelight and homecooked meals over a fire.

The candles were lit as it was getting late. Still, the chicken in the reflector oven (in front of the fireplace) was not ready. It was a long night. By the time we finally sat down to eat, it was indeed the best chicken I had ever tasted.

That vow, though, quickly got broken as the demands of modern living tugged at me. Electric light filled my nights along with blue light from computers and handheld devices. And home cooked meals were replaced with grab and go cuisine.

Today, though, I have renewed my vow to live in the way that truly brings me joy. Today, I share with you my new Sabbath tradition. (They say sharing what you want to commit to is a good way of keeping that commitment as someone will hold you accountable…and so, who out there is going to hold me accountable?)

Rather than having a traditional Sunday dinner, which has also fallen by the wayside for so many families, Mondays will be my 18th-century cooking day. This will be my day to turn off the computers, get the fires outside going and begin making a meal. That is one thing that struck me during my cooking class: The amount of time and energy it took just to prepare one meal. After breakfast was eaten, we didn’t have time to sit around. There was more wood needed to get the bread oven the right temperature if we would to have a meat pie for supper that night. And then there was one dinner in which we didn’t eat till 9 p.m. as the chicken in the metal reflector oven in front of the flames was taking longer than we had anticipated. And then there was the day we burnt the tops of all eight pies … but that is another story.

And so, it is still Monday morning on this the first day of my 18-century cooking Sabbath time. The chicken is roasting nicely. The fresh collard and mustard greens have been picked from the garden and are now simmering down with bacon drippings. Next on the list is to make the spoonbread sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg and to be cooked over the fire. The fire is being a bit finicky as some of my wood is damp from last night’s storm. But I will make it work. And if I am inspired, I might make a cobbler with the abundance of rhubarb I have.

Getting the spoon bread ready for the skillet. Lots of freshly grated nutmeg is a must. Nutmeg — the spice of Colonial America.

Well, I would love to share more, but I have a fire to tend to. But I am curious to hear from you. How do you observe the much-needed Sabbath rest God invites us into? And, if not observed on Sunday, what day have you carved out to step back, rest and recharged your Spirit? (If your Sabbath involves cooking, send recipes my way!)