Sunday, May 31, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Meijer Gardens

In honor of Libby's May birthday, we visited the Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids. Mr. Meijer, founder of the chain of Meijer stores that dominate the midwest, donated a portion of his fortune to create the gardens, which include an extensive sculpture park. Although our family has been to the gardens several times, we've always visited in the winter months when it's too cold to walk outside. Yesterday, however, was a perfect day to explore the grounds.

Betsy gazes at a cow in the Michigan Farm.

A Mallard Duck and her ducklings find their breakfast in the swamp.

Naomi rests in the Gwen Frostick gardens.

Betsy and Naomi interpret Model for Big Sculpture II by Dietrich Klinge.

Amy adds life to Nomade, a sculpture by Jaume Plensa. Visitors are encouraged to enter the piece, for as the artist says, "When people enter Nomade they fill the work with their spirit, their soul." 
Photo  by Libby Cook.

Naomi, Betsy, Brian, Libby and Logan laugh at a joke as they rest with Fred and Lena Meijer.

The twenty-four foot American Horse by Nina Akamu was the only sculpture that visitors are allowed to touch and climb on. 

Logan's favorite part of the gardens was the hill near the American Horse. It was so steep that Libby said her toe nails hurt from pressing against the front of her shoes as she ran down it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kittens, goats, giraffes

While I've been photographing kittens and goats, my sister is photographing giraffes. Julie called Tuesday afternoon to let us know that she's okay, that she's climbed a mountain, and that she was so sore she could barely get out of her chair. 

Julie's sojourn in Africa is nearly half-way over. I admit that I miss my sister. After hearing her on the phone, I was more acutely aware that I miss her. Lord willing, she will return to the states at the end of June, overflowing with stories and with a few pictures of giraffes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Brian leads Dora from the pen to the milkhouse for the evening milking. Brian's goats are friendly and usually cooperative.

Brian improved his milking procedure this spring with the arrival of new equipment and the knowledge he gained from research about milk safety and the specification of a Grade A Dairy. He purchased milking equipment including milkers, a stainless steel sink, and bulk tank from a farm auction. Last fall he procured a small, second-hand freezer. 

The entire operation is now contained in the milkhouse, from milking the goats, to cooling and storing the milk, to cleaning the equipment. The main limitation of the small block building is that it has no running water. Brian must haul five gallon pails of water from the faucet in the barn or, if he wants hot water, from the house. But Brian has an idea of how to connect the milkhouse to the waterline from the barn. Someday he dreams of converting the entire operation into a Grade A Dairy. 

A pail, strainer, and two half gallon glass jars are suspended in a drainer over the stainless steel sink Brian installed in the milkhouse. 

Brian feeds the goats their grain while he milks them. Currently he is milking two does--Merry (pictured) and Dora. 

Brian milks his goats twice a day and receives approximately a gallon of milk each milking. By Michigan law Brain can't sell raw (unpasteurized) milk. He has dreams of someday running a dairy operation where he can sell goat milk.

The milkhouse is a white, brick building connected to the main barn. Years ago, when the barn housed dairy cattle, the former owners used a pit in the corner of the milkhouse to keep the milk cool. After we bought the place Dad filled the pit with concrete and we used the milkhouse as a playhouse. Now the building is again a genuine milkhouse.

Before cooling the milk, Brian weighs the milk and records the data. Then he strains the milk to remove any hair that dropped in the bucket during milking. He cools the half gallon jars of milk by submerging them in ice water. 

Brian keeps records of how much milk each goat produces per day. 

Brian's job isn't done when the goats leave the milkhouse. Along with taking care of the milk, Brian must wash the equipment and clean the milkhouses. To reduce the possibility of bacteria, Brian uses a brush rather than a dishcloth to wash the seamless milk pail.

It takes Brian about half an hour to complete his milking chores. After draining the water from the sink and sweeping the floor, Brian leaves the milkhouse only to return in twelve hours to repeat the process.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mirror portrait

This is the latest addition to my "Mirror Portraits" collection. "Mirror Portraits" consists of photos of my reflection in mud puddles, glass in picture frames, shiny balls and, as in the example above, windows and mirrors. You can see my reflection twice in this self-portrait. I was standing on our second-story deck, looking through the window into the boys' room when I snapped the photo. Along with the window, the full-length mirror on the far side of the boys' room reflects my image.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Little white flowers

up in their hair
The little white flowers looked much prettier in the girls' hair than they did on the bush at the corner of the church building. Naomi and Bekah arranged sprigs of the flower that Brother Byler called Bridal Bouquet in each other's hair on Sunday evening. Then together they fashioned an entire wreath for my head. 

Photo credit: Betsy Cook

Photo credit: Leon Cook

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes
All my own desires and hopes
And accept Thy will for my life.
I give myself, my life, my all
Utterly to Thee to be Thine forever.
Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit
Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt
And work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost now and forever.
~Betty Stam

Saturday, May 23, 2009


on the front porch

Friday, May 22, 2009

Two years

I took this photo two years ago. The baby birds were awaiting their mother's arrival. I spotted them as I wandered outside grieving for my grandmother. For six months our family cared for her with the help of Hospice. We brought her home from the hospital at the end of November, and she went to her heavenly home at the end of May.

It was a privilege to be able to help care for her. As I rubbed her feet or helped her to the commode in the middle of the night, I was worshiping the Lord. When she died, I rejoiced for her and grieved for myself. The sadness was deeper than any I had ever felt before in my life.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest
is my lover among the young men.
I delight to sit in his shade,
and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
Song of Solomon 2.3 NIV

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Engine Splitting

There is always a half-assembled tractor in the bay of the barn or a crippled monster parked in the barnyard awaiting repair. Brian picked up a clutch at the dealership on Saturday morning and on Monday afternoon he and Betsy split the engine of the Deutz-Allis. Surprisingly the repair went according to plan and by Tuesday afternoon the tractor was reassembled. 

Ladies can get dirty and greasy too. Right Betsy?

Betsy helps Brian wheel the cherry-picker into position.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Family outing

We went for a family outing Saturday evening to TSC--Tractor Supply Company. The tradition of visiting a farm supply store for family fun began years ago when we drove forty-five minutes to the nearest Quality Farm and Fleet. We made the trip about once a month to stock up on cat food, softener salt and other necessities. Quality always had racks of bulk (sometimes stale) candy displayed near the checkout. Dad would buy one bag and we would pass the red licorice or gummy bears around the van on the drive home. Quality Farm and Fleet became Quality Farm and Country, which was bought by TSC. Then TSC opened a store in our town, and now the drive isn't so long and the candy isn't so plentiful.

The unusual aspect of our Saturday evening trek was that it turned into an errand extravaganza. Usually we barely have enough time to scoot in the doors of TSC before it closes. Saturday we ate dinner early and completed our TSC run before it was dark. Then it seemed that everyone requested at least one stop on the way home.

First stop was Sears so that Mom could exchange a pair of boy's blue jeans. Aaron, Brian and Logan headed to the tool department with a broken tool that Logan wanted replaced. Betsy, Naomi and I slipped across the mall to the camera store that was going out of business.

Then we swung by Walgreens so that Betsy could pick up some pictures she had printed. We dropped off books and a dvd at the library and Dad drove across the parking lot past the Center for the Arts so that we could admire the flowers in front of Dow Gardens. Despite grumbling from my siblings, Dad shifted the van into park so that I could shoot a few pictures.

From there we drove past the bike shop so that Logan could drool over the display outside and stopped at the ATM so that I could deposit a check. Our last stop was to pick up a pie leftover from the garage sale. "We don't have to stop," Mom told Dad, "unless you want pie for dinner tomorrow." Of course we stopped.

Monday, May 18, 2009


The concrete was cured enough to remove the forms on Saturday. Armed with a hammer, Logan was Dad's helper for the project. As they pried nails, they saved the lumber to build forms for the other side of the driveway. This pour only included the west side of the driveway. Next they will repeat the process on the east side. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009


~for Judith~

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Concrete pour

Yellow and green cement trucks delivered twenty-nine yards of concrete yesterday afternoon. Over the past couple of weeks Dad, Betsy and the boys have been preparing to pour concrete for the driveway. First they loosened the gravel in the driveway and scraped it out. Then they built forms and spread a layer of sand. Finally, yesterday they poured concrete in the forms stretching from the slab near the house to the road. 

Friday, May 15, 2009


My cousin and her three daughters surprised us with a visit yesterday. I arrived home from school to find a minivan in the driveway and a lady with a baby on her hip. I concluded that the woman must be a homeschool mom. My observation was correct and the homeschool mom turned out to be my cousin!

After drawing a picture, Rebekah selected a stack of picture books from the bookshelf. Abigail climbed onto my lap and Bekah snuggled next to me on the couch for story time. I love reading children's books aloud!

The girls were delighted with the animals. They even helped Brian milk the goats in the evening.

Carmen's beautiful girls--Bethany, Abigail and Rebekah--in the matching dresses she sewed for them. 

P.S. My Rebel has returned and I am happy!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


...the end.