Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Because it's more interesting to write about homework than to actually complete it.
My classmates would probably lynch me as an overachiever if they knew how I was approaching this assignment. But I am interested in learning about genetically modified crops. Saturday afternoon two combines harvested the soybeans from the field directly west of our property. Semi-truck hauled loads of beans to the elevator. Those plants probably grew from Roundup Ready seed--seed that's DNA has been modified to resist the herbicide Roundup. I don't have enough knowledge about Roundup Ready soybeans to form an opinion of whether they are beneficial or not. That's the real purpose of my research. 

Yesterday I began research for the paper due in a few weeks for my Human Biology course. Of the eight topics I chose Genetically Modified Foods. Because it is impossible to approach such a broad topic in a four-page paper, I further refined my topic to Roundup Ready Soybeans. As I continue my research I may narrow my topic further (thought I doubt I will be able to confine myself to four pages). 

Beginning my search

One of the first sites I visited was Wikipedia. It may not be a reliable source and thus I won't quote it in my paper, but it is a good place to get an overview of the topic. It also included external links that I may explore in the future. 

"Economic, health & environmental impacts of Roundup-type chemical and Roundup Ready soybeans" by Ronnie Cummins. A biased source, since Cummins is the National Director of the Pure Food Campaign. The article was published in 1996. I am seeking more current opinions and data for my paper. 

"The Problem with the Safety of Roundup Ready Soybeans" by Judy Carman, MPH, PhD Flinders University. "Reliability of source?" I wrote on the first page after skimming the article. The author has a doctorate degree, but so did my creative writing professor and that didn't make him an expert on soybeans. Also the statement, "However, raw soybeans will be fed to cattle. Steak is often served medium rare to rare. Therefore, there is a possibility that people will consume this new still-functional enzyme in their diet" reminds me of the concerns of the ex-hippies in my Mom's food co-op.

"Mysterious DNA in Monsanto's Roundup Ready Soybeans" by Andrew Pollack of the New York Times. Again somewhat outdated material since it was written August 16, 2001. The article was about the publication of a paper about the DNA of Roundup Ready soybeans in the Jouranl European Food Resarch and Technology. If I get ambitious I could try to hunt up that paper. 

I also visited Monsanto's (the company that developed Roundup Ready soybeans) website. 

I was sidetracked by the statistics for blueberry production and value for the last five years in the Michigan Agricultural Statistics for 2007-2008. In 2007 18,500 acres of blueberries were harvested in Michigan yielding 93 million pounds of berries. Along with blueberry statistics I found statistics about soybeans, interesting graphs, and the URL of the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee. 

I began searching academic sources using SVSU's database. I requested on article through ILLiad (our electronic library loan system) and found another that was available on micro-film on the second floor on the library. I don't know how to use micro-film, so I chose not to pursue that article. 

Continuing my search

Since this is an academic paper, I must include peer-reviewed sources. I will be electronically visiting SVSU's databases again.

I may try to interview a local farmer about his opinion of genetically modified soybeans.

We receive extra credit for illustrations in our papers. That's a good excuse to head outside with my camera. 

Monday, September 29, 2008


Kaelyn's Mommy, Tia Amanda and Aunt Amy amused themselves on Saturday afternoon by photographing her. 

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Oh, the unsearchable riches of Christ!
Who would not gladly endure
Trials, afflictions, and crosses on earth,
Riches like these to secure!
~Fanny Crosby

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I'd never seen an old chair on the edge of a bean field before... 

the ginger ale and cherry juice bubbled in my glass...

I was fighting boredom...

...that's why I took that picture.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rosemary Bread

My brother Brian cannot understand why anyone would put "hay" in bread. Since he refuses to eat rosemary bread, except in emergency situations, the two loaves I baked on Saturday lasted well into the week. I ate the bread toasted and spread with cream cheese for breakfast.  

Rosemary Bread
2 tablespoons SAF instant yeast*
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups warm water
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons dried rosemary (or a handful fresh)
5-6 cups bread flour

Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the water. Add the melted butter, salt and rosemary. Stir in flour, one cup at a time until the mixture forms a stiff dough. Knead for 10 minutes, using more flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. Divide the dough into two pieces. Form into round loaves by pulling the edges of the dough and tucking them under the loaf (so that the top of the loaf is smooth and round). Placed on greased cookie sheet and let rise until double in size.

Heat oven to 350F and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the loaves are slightly brown. 

*If you use regular yeast, let the bread rise in the bowl until double after kneading it and before shaping it into loaves.

Rosemary Bread on the Sunday dinner table

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I would exaggerate to say that I learned to write my name in Chinese last night. But I am beginning to learn. Alice, my Conversation Pod partner from Taiwan, showed me how to form the symbols and I attempted to copy them. She had no trouble translating my first or middle names, but my last name was "difficult, very difficult." She thought about it and then produced two symbols that would do. I asked what the word for "cooking" was. I wondered if it might work as a translation (we use verbs as proper nouns for last names in English--cook, baker, miller). I didn't know if last names in Chinese could represent an occupation or action. My guess is not. Alice laughed when I suggested it.

Alice brought me a handful of snacks in case I was hungry after class. The bottom package contains a chocolate treat, while the one on the top is blueberry.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Conversation Pod

If I received credit for email communication, I wouldn't have to leave the house. For my TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) I am required to volunteer ten hours tutoring an ESL (English as a second language) student. Saginaw Valley has a program in which international students are matched with domestic students to practice English in "Conversation Pods." Last Friday I attended an orientation and met two members of my pod, one from Taiwan and the other from China. Since then the four members of our pod have been exchanging emails as we try to arrange a meeting that fits schedules. It's not exactly conversation, but I suppose it is useful practice at communicating in English. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
Job 38.12-13 NIV

(tiling machine)

Monday, September 22, 2008


My Grandpa's refrigerator was a collage of pictures of his grandchildren 
clipped from the newspaper, magazines and calendars. 

I miss my Grandpa. When my jaw hurt from having my wisdom tooth extracted so that I could hardly talk or eat, I wished he were here to bring me a treat to make me feel better. I remember lying on the bathroom rug near the toilet suffering with the flu. Grandpa brought me a purple jaw breaker. I couldn't eat it then, but I looked at it until a day or two later when my stomach settled. When I finally licked the candy I didn't like the taste. But Grandpa's treats didn't have to taste good to make me feel better. Giving was how Grandpa expressed his love. Today my jaw doesn't hurt and I don't have the flu, but I wish Grandpa were here to give me a treat to make me feel better. 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Morning Bible reading

How great is God--beyond our understanding!
The number of his years is past finding out.
He draws up the drops of water,
which distill as rain to the streams;
Job 33:26-27 NIV

Saturday, September 20, 2008


At least multi-crossing-off-the-to-do-list. Blogging, baking and photographing, all with one post.

Friday, September 19, 2008


It's exciting when a semi-truck pulls in the driveway and the driver unloads coils of black drainage tile. It's not only exciting, my Dad would tell you, it's also expensive.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I found this unusual combination on the table on the front porch.

Canning count for the week: 13 quarts pears, 13 pints raspberry jam, 7 quarts spaghetti sauce, 7 quarts grapes. I can't take credit for anything but the photograph. I return home in the evening to admire the rows of jars cooling on the kitchen counter.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

View of God

In a recent post my friend Jaime posed the question, "What is your view of God?" As I pondered, I realized I couldn't articulate my response in a short comment on her blog. Thus I decided to expand the thought to a post of my own. With this post, I extend Jaime's question to you. What is your view of God?

In May, my friend Amanda and I went on pilgrimage to Holland, Michigan to see the tulips. We wandered across acres of tulips in long rows. There were tulips of every color--dozens of shades of red from firetruck red to maroon to "King's Blood." There were all shapes of tulip petals from smooth to flutted to jagged to pointed. After admiring thousands of tulips, we continued down the road to Lake Michigan. It was bitterly cold. My teeth chattered and my fingers grew red and numb. The wind pelted us with sand and the crashing waves sprayed us with icy water. The water was gray and brown and white and powerful. I loved it. 

On our drive home, Amanda and I discussed the differences in beauty between the cultivated tulip garden and the fierce waves at the state park. They were stunningly beautiful, in immensely different ways. To classify beauty relating only to the acres of tulips, would be to miss the beauty of the awesome power of the waves. 

In the same way, to view God as the God of love and goodness, without acknowledging the holiness and righteousness of his character, would be a lacking perception. Our society would like to believe in a God of love who won't send anyone to hell. God is a God of love. There is no greater demonstration of love than of God sending His only son to redeem cursed mankind. Yet He is also a God of justice and righteousness and mercy. He will return and judge the world. 

C.S. Lewis characterized Aslan, the lion who symbolizes Christ in Chronicles of Narnia, as not a tame lion. Mr. Beaver tells Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, "'Course he isn't safe. But he's good." God is capable of wildest power; yet He demonstrates extreme love. 

God is the one who sends lightning across the sky, but He's also the God who creates the softness of a baby's skin. To focus solely on His strength and power and justice would be to miss the personal love of God. 

I remind myself that my feelings do not alter God's character. Whether it is a day of cultivated tulips, or a day of a thunderstorm, or a day of wacky hormones, God remains the same. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). Whatever my perception, God remains. He is. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Libby's sunflowers

Libby is our gardener. She planted sunflowers near the fence row on the west side of our property, beyond our orchard.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Libby brought me sunflowers, gladiolas, and dahlias from her garden on Saturday. I placed the sunflowers in a metal pitcher to take to church, and arranged the gladiolas and dahlias in vases for our bedrooms. Since then I've been waiting for enough natural light to photograph the white and pink gladiolas in my pink room. It's been dark and drizzly the past few days. 

On Sunday morning, I gave up and used a flash (the photo above). I dislike using the flash because it flattens the light and creates shadows. This morning there still wasn't enough natural light in my bedroom, so I spread a black sheet on the railing of the deck. The overcast light was suitable for photographing flowers (middle two photos). Finally, just a few minutes ago, the sun broke through the clouds enough to allow me to photograph the flowers complimenting my pink bedroom (last photo).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lazy T Ranch

David, Brian, and Caleb amused themselves while remaining relatively dry. 

Friday and Saturday our church met at the Lazy T Ranch for our annual camping outing. I was only at the camp for a few hours on Saturday, but the rain arrived at midnight and continued all day. 

It was Brother and Sister Potteiger's 45th wedding anniversary and we celebrated with banners, balloons and cake.

It was a warm, persistent rain.

Brother and Sister Byler on the porch of their six-person cabin 
(six non-claustrophobic persons). 

Brother and Sister Potteiger prepare to feed each other carrot cake. 

Julie hangs a banner in honor of the Potteiger's anniversary. 

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Brian's kids are going on seven months old. He has ten of them scampering around the barnyard, along with eight mature goats. 

Scrapie tags arrived in the mail this week. To be sold at a livestock auction, goats are required to have identification tags in their ears. Along with selling a few kids, Brian plans to have two of them turned into chevon for winter. 

Don't want to share dinner? Get in the feeder.

Got an itch? Scratch it.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Substance, Shadow & Reflection

It's been several years since I've awaken to stumble down the stairs seeking relief from discomfort. After settling myself on the couch with ice, ibuprofen, and pudding I picked up the Voice of the Martyrs magazine. 

Squinting at the words, since I was without my contact lenses, I read the excerpt "Resisting the Worst Tortures" from Richard's Wurmbrand's book God's Underground. Wurmbrand recounted his experience enduring torture during the fourteen years he spent in Communist prisons. As I read his words in the dark of midnight, alone in a houseful of people, I recognized the depth of strength perfected through suffering. Wurmbrand wrote, "had I been just flesh I could not have resisted. But the body is only a temporary residence for the soul." 

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of sitting in my Dad's Sunday school class rather than teaching my own. He always opens with a question. That week he asked what our most valuable possessions were. We listed the usual items. My Dad pointed out that though we rarely think of it as such, our bodies are our possession. We may point to our bodies and refer to them as ourselves, but our true person is deeper, in our eternal souls. 

Our bodies with their aches and pains, whether the result of persecution or a dental procedure, are only temporary fixtures. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV). Our bodies will break and wear out. The true part of us, our souls, will endure forever. That's a promise that puts temporary discomfort in perspective. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Not duck soup

"I can do that. Duck soup," my dentist says referring to removing my upper wisdom teeth.

There was no mention of poultry this morning as he applied "Pressure. More pressure"  to extract my bottom, right wisdom tooth.

For as small as I am, the dentist said the root was large and secure. He removed the stubborn thing, and I am at home resting with ice on my wisdom-depleted jaw. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Reason #21

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
It's seasonal
A more red than blue blueberry bush last October.

My best reasons--college and home school, family time, church activities, tooth extraction--proved a pittance last Saturday as I weighed berries for customers. "How much longer are you going to be open?" they would ask. I put on my "sorry" smile, reviewed my list of reasons, and admitted that Saturday was our last official day. It wasn't enough. 

It was a shame. So many berries wasted. Couldn't we stay open just one more week?

By the end of the morning I felt like telling customers we were selfish people who had nothing to do but open the blueberry farm at their convenience but we were closing because we wanted to waste berries. I didn't.

One of my faithful customers offered another perspective. "This has to end sometime," she said. Berry picking is seasonal. September is no longer the season of berry picking for our family; it is the season of classes and books. 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Don't give up

This was my tenth and last shot of a Monarch butterfly in the alfalfa field. The butterfly flitted from blossom to blossom. When it was still it usually had its magnificent wings folded. I shot nine photos of a blurry butterfly or the alfalfa field without a butterfly before I finally captured this image.

Adam named all the animals before God created Eve
Abraham and Sarah waited years before God sent a promised son
Moses tended sheep forty years before God rescued the Israelites
Joshua marched around Jericho thirteen times 
before God destroyed the walls
David hid from Saul for years before God gave him the kingdom
Don't give up

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tiling Machine

Tiling is one of the dirties jobs on our farm. It can also be one of the most frustrating due to frequent break-downs.

To men accustomed to digging trenches with pick and shovel, the tiling machine must have seemed a marvelous invention. Our 1948 Buckeye Tiling Machine was designed to dig the trenches required to install clay drainage tile in fields. It's an odd contraption, more often broken than not. It emits a growl worthy of its age.

In our field across the road the big boys played in the dirt today. Four years ago my Dad and brothers installed the main tile that runs under the road to the county drain. They hope to complete the job by installing a grid of four inch, black plastic drainage tile throughout the field. 

This afternoon they made four 600-foot runs across the front of the field. The tiling machine digs a two-foot wide trench of gradually increasing depth. The fall across the field causes the water to flow through the tile to the ditch. One end of today's run had a depth of four-and-a-half feet; the other end had a depth of a mere three feet. 

Before it became a state, Michigan was a mosquito infested swamp. Surveyors divided the land into townships. Loggers cleared trees and farmers moved in determined to drain the mushy ground. Our neighbor remembers when his father had the original clay tile installed on our farm. A group of prisoners with shovels dug trenches across the field.  

A good drainage system is necessary in Michigan. When we drive past fields my Dad and brothers can spot the tile lines. The corn or beans growing directly over the tile are bigger and healthier than the plants in the rest of the field. Without drainage, fields flood in the spring and crops often drown. If the plants do survive, they don't send their roots deep enough in the soil. In the summer, when the days are dry and hot, the plants shrivel because their roots don't reach the moisture.

Today there are bigger, more sophisticated machines than our old tiling machine. My Dad bought the antique machine shortly after we acquired the rest of our sixty-acre farm twelve years ago. He knew the fields would yield better with more tile and figured that he and the boys would be able to install it themselves. 

Since then he and the boys have installed tile in our own fields, as well as other small fields including two or three fields that we rent. The source of much frustration, because of its frequent break-downs, the tiling machine has been a lawn ornament in several fields. Then it serves as a conversation starter.

The tiling machine in action. An unusual sight. Dad and the boys installed 2,300 feet of tile today.

Though the tiling machine has an operator's platform, Aaron prefers to walk beside the machine as he steers and adjusts settings. The machine moves across the field on its tracks at a walking speed.

Naomi captures a picture of Aaron operating the tiling machine while Logan, riding on the back, feeds four-inch tile in the hole. At one end the trench was four-and-a-half feet deep.

The boys use a transit to shoot the grade of the field before they install tile. The tile slopes across the field so that the water naturally flows through the tile to the ditch.

Brian uses our neighbor's back-hoe to deliver a roll of tile in the alfalfa field across the road from our house. The field will be planted to oats or wheat this fall. Alfalfa plants are auto-toxic, which means a field must rest between plantings of alfalfa. The boys hope to bale another cutting of hay from the field yet this fall, but since the weather hasn't been conducive for hay making they decided to begin the tiling.