Sunday, August 31, 2008

God of the passing hour,

I pray to be clothed with humility,
to be quickened in thy way,
to be more devoted to thee,
to keep the end of my life in view,
to be cured of the folly of delay and indecision,
to know how frail I am,
to number my days and apply my heart unto wisdom.

"Lord's Day Eve." Arthur Bennett, ed. The Valley of Vision. Carlisle, PA: Banner of 
Truth, 1975.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Reason #19

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
Natural Body Art
I'd classify it as a farmer's tan, except farmers don't wear sandals. 

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bir, iki, uc, dort...

Dr. Kerry Segel didn't speak a word of English the first thirty minutes of TESOL 1 (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) class on Wednesday afternoon. He even took roll using Turkish. We wrote out first and last names on the whiteboard, practiced "matematik uygulama" (bir arti bir ayni iki means one plus one equals two), and sang (while Dr. Segel snapped his fingers to the music) a traditional coming-of-age song. I learned that mum is candle and on is ten and that with the right mixture of gestures and words it's possible to follow simple instructions even when you don't understand the language. 

There are more people in the world who speak English as a second language, Dr. Segel informed us, than speak it as their native tongue. English is changing. It is becoming a universal language. Methods of teaching English have been perfected over the past few years, and Dr. Segel assured us that experts now know the best way to teach English. That is why we're in the class.

There are ten of us in the class--three taking the class for graduate credit and seven of us taking it toward our undergraduate degrees. One classmate is himself an ESL (English as a second language) student from Omar. Though all of us complete the same course, we do it for a variety of reasons--ESL endorsement to a teaching certificate, TESOL certificate for teaching adults, or just to the fulfill the language requirements of an English Education degree.  

Sorry no photo of Dr. Segel moving to the music. Use your imagination.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Reason #18

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
The Ice Cream Fund
Naomi decorated our "Ice Cream Fond" jar.

Betsy ordered three gallons of Cherry Amaretto ice cream from the Freeland Dairy and on Friday night our family converged at the blueberry farm to devour the treat (after we picked 64 quarts of berries to take to the market the next morning). The maraschino cherry, chocolate chunk ice cream was purchased by our ice cream fund--a voluntary pool of the nickles, dims, quarters and dollar bills we receive as tips. True to Cook tradition, we didn't eat our ice cream until it was too dark to work outside. Lack of sunlight, though, didn't diminish the enjoyment of our anticipated reward. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Just the facts

We would classify it as a myth, a story told to explain the observable world, if it were in my English classes. But since it is in my science class it is fact. 

There are at least five references of "goo to you via the zoo" Evolution in the first chapter of Human Biology (Sylvia S. Mader, McGraw Hill, 10th edition). Evolution, not the Creator God, is the explanation for the "unity and diversity of life" (Mader 5). 

Sadly the moral influence of this belief is evident, a few pages later when the author mentions stem cell research and global warming. I don't write in my textbooks, but I made an exception when I read, "early human embryos are composed only of cells... Should human embryos be dismantled and used...? It means they will never have the opportunity to become a human being" (14). Babies are not just cells. They don't simply have the opportunity to become human beings; they are people with eternal souls.

It further distressed me to read the "Bioethical Focus" on the next page. Polar bears may become extinct as a result of global warming, chemical pollution, and oil and gas exploration. According to Mader, "Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge in Alaska will impact about half of the onshore denning sites that are used by pregnant females...[and] significantly lower the survival rate of polar bear females, as well as their young....Therefore, it might behoove us to take all possible steps to conserve species" (15). 

What up-side-down priorities to be concerned about unborn polar bear cubs, and refuse to acknowledge that human embryos are people with a right to be born and live. It certainly behooves us to conserve natural resources. It behooves us even more to acknowledge Almighty God as Creator and Ruler of the universe and to pattern our lives according to the standards and rules He has set in place.

O Lord, the great and awesome God, 
who keeps his covenant of love 
with all who love him and obey his commands, 
we have sinned and done wrong
We have been wicked and have rebelled
we have turned away from your commands and laws. 
Daniel 9:4-5 NIV

Here are some resources I find helpful when I encounter false facts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


It was a sticky process, but the five bushels of peaches we purchased in Clare are now in jars lining on our basement shelves. 

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to school

Whether I'm ready or not, my classes begin at SVSU today. I would much rather head to the blueberry farm to pick buckets of berries, than pack my books in my backpack and drive to the college campus. This morning Mom, Libby and Naomi are covering for me at the blueberry farm, and I am gathering my textbooks and three ring binders. I only have classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, so the rest of the week I plan to haul my homework to the blueberry farm.

I have nine credits and student teaching to complete before I graduate in May 2009. This is my fifteenth semester! Two of those semesters were full time, the rest part time. I also took one year off, for health reasons. After I graduate I will be certified to teach middle school through high school English and math. 

Julie also begins her classes at SVSU today. She is a senior in the Accounting program. Betsy's classes at Delta begin next week, after Labor Day. She will be studying to become an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse). She already is a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and works at Stratford Nursing Home. 

The younger children--Brian 11th grade, Libby 9th grade, Logan 7th grade, Naomi 5th grade--will begin homeschool classes next week after the Labor Day holiday. Aaron and Joel have already graduated--Aaron with a degree in Heavy Equipment Mechanics from Ferris State University, and Joel with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University. 

Don't feel too sorry for me, all of those books are not for this semester. They are books I've acquired--some that I voluntarily kept and others that the bookstore wouldn't buy back. 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Farmer's Market

I hadn't visited the Farmer's Market yet this year, so this morning I rolled out of bed fifteen minutes earlier than usual, and with my camera around my neck I headed downtown. The Farmer's Market has its own circular pavilion near the Tridge (a bridge with three bases where the Tittabawassee and Chippewa Rivers meet). 

This week it was Brian and Julie's turn to man the stall on the inside of the circle, beneath the blue tarp Betsy rigged up to keep off the sun and rain. Since it was Julie's last trip to the market for the year, she baked blueberry pies to share with the other vendors. Bob, the market master, received his own pie with his name dotted in the top crust. 

Michelle Flower neighbored the "blueberry girls" on one side, with Paul's Produce on the other and the Corrion Farms beyond that. While at the market, Betsy and I walked the circle and purchased cauliflower, watermelon, and colored peppers. The Whole Grain Bakery and Denise Ciarviano of Fat Gander did my Saturday baking for me. I came home with loaves of cinnamon, raisin, rosemary, and tomato basil bread. 

Friday, August 22, 2008

Reason #17

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
I wear my hat

Thanks Aunt Gera

Thursday, August 21, 2008


A horse await its owner outside the Pine Valley Country Store.

Even in horse and buggy country, among men with long beards and women in coverings and solid color dresses, I am mistaken as Amish. For her birthday this year, Mom wished to visit the Amish stores in Clare, Michigan. One of our anticipated summer activities is shopping at the hardware store, bulk food store and bakery in Clare. These small family-owned businesses, with items and quantities suitable for large families, are closed on Thursday, Sunday, and as we discovered one year on Libby's birthday, Assension Day. But they were open yesterday when Mom, Julie, Libby, Logan, Naomi and I made the forty-five minute drive north. 

I was resting in the wooden rocking chair in the back of Colonville Country Store, a pole-barn-type building filled with kerosene lanterns, hand-crank ice cream freezers, and flashlights, waiting for my family to finish shopping, when a customer commented on how comfortable I looked. Then he asked where the hatchet handles were. I directed him to the side wall without bothering to explain that I wasn't Amish and didn't work there. 

Bushels of peaches were grouped in the shade of a tree outside the the Pine Valley Country Store. Inside bags of flour, sugar and oatmeal lined one wall. Men's black hats and herbal remedies covered another wall, and packages of candy, pudding mixes and baking supplies filled the shelves. While Mom was writing the check to pay for our purchases, including honey mustard pretzels for Brian and a case of frozen butter, I went outside and helped an Amish girl in a teal green dress load five bushels of peaches in our fifteen passenger van. 

The Amish had no difficulty categorizing us as "English." When we stopped at a farm off a dirt road to ask directions to the ding and dent store five or six Amish children silently stared at us while their mother directed us two-and-a-half miles further down Surrey Road. 

Our last stop was the Surrey Discount Foods store. We arrived three minutes before closing and stuffed our cart with Gatorade, dented boxes of cereal and out-of-season Chex Cocoa Snack Mix. Near the check-out was a cardboard box of lipstick, two for a dollar. The make-up seemed incongruous with the man with the scraggly beard and suspenders behind the counter.

Julie and Mom select packages of dried fruit, nuts, pretzels, snacks and candy at the Pine Valley Country Store. Sunlight from the windows light the store since the Amish eschew electricity.

Though our van is large, it isn't the best for hauling groceries because it is full of benches. We sat next to a half-bushels of peaches after we left the Pine Valley Country Store. 

We turned around for this road-side stand with its colorful rugs, braided onions and assortment of home-canned fruits and vegetables. I hurried to snap a few pictures before two silent Amish girls emerged from the house. We bought a pint of sorghum molasses, a pint of raspberry jam, and a quart of raspberry pie filling--all for ten dollars.

Logan, Naomi and Julie load cardboard boxes of food into the van at Surrey Discount Food. By the end of the trip, LIbby was disgusted with everyone, Amish and non-Amish alike, staring at us. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Reason #16

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
My sisters buy me watermelon twice a week
The Corrions, fellow vendors at the Farmer's Market, raise the best watermelon.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Lily pad


Scarecrow in tomato patch



We went to the Dow Gardens yesterday afternoon. We planned to go to the Zap exhibit at the Alden B. Dow Museum, but museums are closed on Mondays. So we went next door to the gardens where I found many green things.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tractor Driving

I joined the hay crew for about an hour on Saturday afternoon as tractor driver. Aaron, Betsy and Brian went on a weekend camping trip on the west side of the state, leaving Logan and Dad to bale the three wagonloads of hay in the backfield. I was too preoccupied with using the clutch and PTO lever while keeping an eye on the RPM, where I was going, the baler, and the folks on the wagon, to take many pictures. You'll have to just imagine me driving the tractor since I didn't attempt self-portraits. 

Logan and Dad started and finished baling the back hay field by themselves. Dad drove slowly and stopped every little bit to help Logan stack the hay. Logan was so tired on Sunday that he fell asleep in the van on the way home from church.  

Logan and Dad hoist the last bale on a load of hay. Naomi rode along on the wagon since she didn't want to stay at the house by herself.

I mixed up a blackberry sour cream coffee cake while Logan and Dad greased fittings on the baler before heading to the back field on Saturday afternoon. 

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Reason #15

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
The Lord is delighted with our business practices
The LORD abhors dishonest scales,
but accurate weights are his delight.
Proverbs 11:1 NIV

Saturday, August 16, 2008

At the blueberry farm

"Excuse me. Is this the way to Saginaw?"

Logan practicing his memory verses while we wait for customers to finishing picking berries Wednesday morning. 

Rejected berries.

We had a busy morning. Aaron, Julie, Betsy and Brian went camping for the weekend with a group of young people on the west side of the state, leaving the rest of us with the animal and Farmer's Market responsibilities. This morning Dad and Libby took the berries to market. At seven Mom and Naomi went to the market. Naomi stayed with Dad and Mom brought Libby home to milk our goats and Kendra Byler's goats. Then Mom and Libby went back up to the market and Logan and I went over to the blueberry farm. We converged back at the house around noon and after eating and comparing stories of our morning, most of us opted for naps.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Try this at home folks...
Naomi made us parfaits for dinner last night. To make parfaits, layer vanilla yogurt, granola, and fresh blueberries in glass goblets. 

After Naomi completed the parfaits, I photographed them. To photograph parfaits, look for interesting, natural light (indirect light is better than direct sunlight). I set the parfait on the porch steps where the light created an interesting shadow with the stem of the goblet. 
Set your camera on the "Macro" setting (look for a tulip symbol). Compose the frame by focusing on the parfait, pressing the shutter release button half-way down to lock the focus, and repositioning the frame so that the parfait is not directly in the center of the frame. Press the shutter release button the rest of the way down to take your picture. Repeat until you are satisfied with your results or you are too hungry to continue. 

Thursday, August 14, 2008



A hot shower, nasal decongestant, steaming tea, Kleenex...
Some weed at the blueberry farm, I suspect the beautiful yellow one pictured above, is saturating the air with pollen. 
This too shall pass. For now I'm surviving. 
This is not Reason #15 why I enjoy running the blueberry farm.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reason #14

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
I interact with big people 
and little people 
and people in-between

Judith weighing our nine-and-a-half pound "little blueberry." 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cook Girls

Since I posted photos of the four Byler girls yesterday, I thought it fair that I post a photo of the five Cook girls today. We posed for this photo in our orchard in May (and I confess, there wasn't actually a pink sunset in the background. I added it.). Julie and I have a 16x20" framed print of this photo hanging in our bedroom. 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Byler Girls

All of the Byler girls were at church together yesterday. Saturday evening Kendra and Kathryn returned from a month in Canada. Joel, Judith and Kaelyn came up for the weekend for Kaelyn's dedication service. It used to be that the four Byler girls sat in a row in the front pew at church. But girls grow up--Judith lives in Whitmore Lake, Kathryn is moving to Pennsylvania to attend school, and Amanda often works as a nurse at the hospital on Sundays. So for a few minutes on Sunday evening Amanda, Judith, Kendra and Kathryn enjoyed their sister time as they posed for photographs.