Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Passover and the Blood Moon, and the old lady who swallowed the fly.

Today has been catch up on blog post day. And power off day. The power has gone off about four times while trying to catch up on blog posts. 

A sane person would have given up by now. I know. One blog post would suffice. Why not just do one blog post a week?

Yes. I agree that is a very good idea. One practice I need to take up consistently.
But the truth is, life gets in the way, and when I have a free day, I'll take it. The weather outside is drappy, skulky, windy, and whirly, hence the power outages, hence my succession of blog postings. 

 Hence, the fact that I'm tired of working outside, hence I have a lot of catching up to do. Hence, and henceforth and so forth, and whatnot. Whatever....

I'm in an odd mood.
Today I passed by a shelf in my house with a buzzing wrapper. I leaned down, and to my surprise I saw a very large fly trapped between the folds of an open package of gram-crackers. 

Irritated by the buzzing bug, I picked up the wrapper, only to scream out in horror. Not only was there a fly trapped between the plastic, but a clever great big spider had found his home there, waiting, apparently for the fly. I was so startled that I dropped the package, and let the gram crackers, the spider and the fly drop where they may. Then I proceeded to smash the spider, and sweep up the crushed gram crackers. 

Then, later, joking with my mom, I told her about the incident, and how I felt sort of bad that I had smashed the spider. After all, the spider had been very clever hiding there to catch the fly. 

"Feel bad?" my mom asked. "Why? I'm glad you mashed him. If you hadn't, I would have probably nearly eaten him." 

My eyes lit up upon thinking up something witty. "I how know," I said, "why the old lady swallowed the fly, and the spider." 

We both laughed. 

On a different note.
Very different. I wanted to share with you the pictures of the blood moon I saw last week.
  I believe it was April 14 or 15, or somewhere inbetween, as 12ish and 1ish in the morning are more inbetween places than actual days to me.

I heard that the eclipse was going to start at varying times. But I wasn't quite sure which. 
So I picked about 2:00 Am for a good wake up time, and set my alarm clock accordingly. 

But as chance would have it I woke up around twelve, and poked my head outside. 
The moon was shining like crazy. It was absolutely beautiful.  It was shining so white, so silvery bright that you could walk around with out the aide of a flashlight and watch your own shadow, like you were standing in front of a powerful lamp.

But it still looked like the moon, despite its amazing brightness. 
It was not orange, or red, or black.

Disappointed, I went back in the house and waited about 20 minutes, then peeked back outside. 
Ah, hah. I saw it. There was a dark shadow subtly crossing its surface. I was so excited that I ran into the house and tried waking everybody up. 

My mom was the only one alive enough to come and moon watch with me. 
We both stood and stared, watching as the shadow slowly covered the moon. 

But it was slow.
Very slow. And we got very cold. 
So we went inside and sat in the dark for a little while, and then peeked out again. 

Still looked about the same. Just a bit more shadow. But it was getting closer.

Not wanting to go to bed and miss it, we stuck in a movie and watched it for a bit, and then went back outside. 
The instant I went outside I noticed a definite change in lighting. 
It was dark. No silvery beams shown down to light our path. 
No long shadows. 
Darkness. It was spooky.
Ah hah. IT, the moon was almost gone.
We stared up and watched as it its silver beams slowly vanished. 

Then bit by bit, it turned orange, and then a rust-colored red. The stars behind it were brilliant. The sky beautiful. The moon itself was an eery orb of orange-red, an stirring and beautiful scene. 
I stayed out watching it long after my mom went in, thinking. 

Somehow the mood of the night, the once brilliant night turned somber, and the moon staring up at me, red, and dismal, I had a lot of thoughts running through my head. 

Tonight was the night of the passover. According to what I've heard, and correct me if I'm wrong, but every blood moon has happened on a Jewish holiday. Which I find quite fascinating.
A lot of people read a lot of doom and gloom into it. 
But there will be four this year. 
I for one, am not sure what to think. Only that it was beautiful and thought provoking. 
To me, it reminded me of the children of Israel, and the meaning of the passover.
The once bright night was darkened by the angel of death, and those who had the blood of a lamb marking their doors were spared. 

That is the reminder I gleaned from the blood moon. 
The words of a Hebraic Jewish roots Christan preacher, named Bill Cloud came to my mind----The angel of death passed the children of Israel by, because Christ passed over them, like a hen covering her chicks.  That is why it is called the passover.

 That was the gist of what he said. Not an exact quote. But I really liked what he said. And I don't think I've heard it put that way so beautifully. 
What was the blood moon like?
It was a reminder, that whatever the future holds, blood moons, wars, famines, that the Lord is in control. It is him we should put our trust. And that the darkness that is coming upon the world can not harm us if we look up to whence our salvation comes.

The muse of chocolate cake

(A blog post I started at the end of March) And decided to publish today. Kinda backwards. I know.

Out my window the last beams of the sun are shining down on the slowly greening alfalfa fields and brown grasses, bathing them in a warm glow. It's the kind of glow that bespeaks of safety, of peace, of stillness, and a deep warmth.

But it's anything but warm. That is the harsh deception of such golden glowing rays. To look out the window one might think to run outside and greet the sun.

I have heard this call many times these past weeks, and I have ran to greet the sun only to be blown back inside by the frigid air, jaded by the deception of spring.

The sky is blue, laced with puffy clouds, that change shape, color, and mood just as quickly as the weather does. One minute there's freezing wind, shadowlands,  and cold. The next moment there is light, warmth, sun, and calm.
Then just as you settle into the warmth, the sun is covered in clouds, and a blustering wind blasts you from the north, trying to shoo you back inside.

Mother nature has a hard time making up is mind as I do.
So I guess I shouldn't judge it so harshly.

Here, the birth pangs of a new season are always laden with such winds, and turbulent extremes in hot and cold, wet, and dry. It's as if winter is mixing with spring, battling it out.

Who the victor will be?
Frost, or sun?
The delicate bud, or the blast of the cold wind?

Sometimes the cold wind wins out, and takes the swelling buds away with it as soon as they open.
Sometimes, the frost comes and freezes the new bulbs before they've had a chance to even open.

But other times, the good times, the cold gently let's go, and spring is given a fare chance to thrive.
I hope that will be the story of this new season.

Seasons in nature, in life, in our own separate lives and our own unique stories.

It seems everywhere you look there's a new discovery made, a new invention created.

 Everywhere you look is a story. An opportunity to give meaning, to create a song, a subtle nudge of inspiration.

All we need to is be open to those gentile nudges.

A funny thing happened today. I was just settling into the idea of dropping by and writing a blog post when my plans were drawn off course by my mom's strong desire for a chocolate cake.

This would be the 3rd chocolate cake I've made in two weeks. What were we celebrating?
 A day. Being a live. Enjoying good food. Protesting the fact that we've given up buying most junk food, and are coming up with creative ways making our own new, more tastier junk food.

Yeah. Lots of butter. Lots of chocolate. But good for the soul. This recipe is one that turns out every time.
Super good.
Super moist.
Not too sweet.
It's a cake that tastes like a brownie.
And it's something we can't seem to get enough off.

 Who would have thought that making a chocolate cake would be good for the muse, but it was. While I was mixing ingredients, my sister sat on the couch strumming her bass ukulele that sounds more like a guitar.

In between cracking eggs, and measuring flour, and the strumming of the uklelee, my sister and I started singing random words. It started out really silly. We started singing ABC song to the tune of her strumming. We added trills, and harmony, in-between beats, and random fun sounds. I picked up a empty paper towel roll and sang into it. My mom started dancing and humming. We had a regular band going. Then the song arched and changed into something really cool. We were singing a chorus, and it sounded good, and right, with harmony, and words that came freely. We were in the zone.

That was a nice feeling. It was a good song, a song we entitled. You were born to be Free. But now its title has changed to Waking up the dead, or Resurrection.
We didn't have the song all down. But we knew what we wanted to say. After I had the cake in the oven, my sister and went and brainstormed, writing random words, and thoughts down as they came.

That was then, about two weeks ago, and the song has morphed into a song about the resurrection. A song of second chances, a parallel between Lazarus,  Christ , and how the Lord calls us forth from our own self-made tombs to new life. I'm really excited about the song. Someday, I hope to share it with you.

So what is the point of this blog post?

Never underestimate the power of a little music, silliness, and chocolate cake.
It could end up being a very serious, fulfilling business.
Who would have thought that making chocolate cake could put you in the muse.
That out of the recesses of  a recipe, and fun could come a song that at least I think is a song that I feel very strongly about. A song with a message that needs to be sung. 

If an egg is broken by an outside force--- Incubating chicks and power tools.

So a little over 21 days ago, I watched this video of a chick's development in an egg.

After watching it, and after seeing so many cute chicks for sale at our local hardware stores, I decided I was going to hatch my own brood of chicks.

Only problem was, I didn't have an incubator.
An incubator couldn't be that hard to build, right?
I sifted through YouTube videos and blog posts until I found a model that looked pretty simple.
I would have to modify it of course to fit my own materials, but I could do it.
I spent a good part of an evening building what I thought, was a pretty stinkin awesome incubator.
I used an old wooden tool box for the basic frame and some foamy packing stuff, (I can't think of what it's called)  to insulate it.

Then I got a castoff wooden board, and drilled a hole for a light bulb, and then I used my sister's  little power jigsaw, to carve the wood to fit the top of the toolbox.
And there you have it. I had an incubator, complete in only a few hours.

I was pretty excited with my creation. Not to mention the fact that my sister's power tools are so awesome. I think every woman should have excess to power tools. Just think how empowered the average woman would be with a simple power saw----(I think I'm calling it the wrong name, but it's so cool) oh and a drill, that's so handy, and a staple gun, and other such accessories. I love them. I feel like mighty woman running them.

I also think dads are seriously missing the boat by not gifting some of these tools to their children, and showing them how to safely  use them. You know how many black and blue bruised thumbs, scrapes, slivers, and endless hours would have been saved? How many hours of frustration, turned into feelings of empowerment, with just a drill, some screws, and a few pieces of new wood?
Seriously, when I think of all the huts I built, with just a hammer and some nails, all the rabbit pens I fixed up with twine and old wires---the endless hammering nails into wood, when a drill and some screws, or a staple gun would have done the trick?

Men, wake up! You want to bond with your woman. Okay. You're tired of her nagging you. Then do something smart.
Help educate and empower the children and women in your life. Power tools were not invented only for your use. You know how many women would cease nagging you, if only they were equipped with some simple life-changing power-tool skills, if you took the time, and taught her with patience.

Oh yes. I'm a power tool advocate.

Seriously. I'm going to protest or something. I guess something happened when I first learned how to use a drill, and run a automatic saw. Life was ever so much more easy. Yes, I know, I've lived on a farm my whole life, and I should know these things. But I didn't. I knew how to do a bunch of other stuff. But power tools weren't among my skills...until just recently. 

Okay, now I've got sidetracked. I was talking about incubating eggs not power tools. 

After I completed building my incubator, my sister who lives just a few miles down the road, found out about my little project, and said I could borrow her incubator and electronic thermometer as well.

Now I was getting excited. I had two incubators, and I would try them both out to see which had the higher yield of chicks.
I used some of our own chicken eggs, and some of my sister's chicken eggs and started the experiment.

My sister's incubator was easy to run. But getting the temperature even was a little tricky. However its temperatures were not nearly as fluctuating as my own homemade incubator.

In the beginning, I had worried that my incubator I built was going to be too cold. But on the contrary, it was too hot. I kept on having to babysit it, and open the lid up, and then turn the eggs, and then fill the water container because all the water had evaporated. I had two dozen eggs in my incubator and about three dozen in my sister's incubator.

What I had previously thought was an amazing accomplishment, my homemade incubator turned into a big flop. Seriously. For chicks to hatch you the incubator to be  about 99 degrees, and 40 percent humidity. I was constantly was having to adjust the temperature. It got blazing hot, then I'd open the lid, then it got too cold. 

 I fretted over that incubator way too many days to count. Suffice it to say, that after a sufficient amount of time I candlelight all the eggs inside it and found no progress. Thus I proceeded with project, incubate take down. I cracked open every one of those eggs, and found only one possible egg that looked like it had started to grow blood veins.

What a horrible disappointment. Next time, if there is a next time, I think I'll need to do a little bit more planning, and have a fan or something to keep the temperatures even so the light doesn't cook the eggs. I should post a picture of my incubator flop. It looked pretty legit, and nifty. But I'm not in the mood.
Gearing the incubator for the hatching eggs

On a happier note, on day 18 of the incubation process, I opened the other incubator, and found cheeping eggs. I was so excited! I was beginning to think that all my efforts had been for nothing.
 It was hard watching, and waiting for them to hatch. The first two eggs that started to hatch had major problems. I guess the babies were a bit premature, due to the fact I guess I needed the humidity adjusted, or I had the heat slightly lower than I should have. It's freaky how just a little glitch in humidity, and a few degrees in temperature can make the chicks forming in the egg deformed, or hatch too early or not develop right.

It kind of scares me. And amazes me that life can exist at all if it's such a precise process.  I guess that's why nature only intended chicken's to hatch chicks, not humans.

Anyway, the first two eggs that started hatching had some serious issues. They were hatching forever, and peeping like crazy.  Part of the inner skin inside the shell looked really dry, so I upped the humidity, and hydrated the egg with a spray bottle.

A few hours later---still the same problem. The chicks looked stuck. I called my sister who has hatched a lot of chicks, and she I surmised that it would be okay at this point  to give a little help to the hatching chicks.

Oh boy I was wrong. 
The little reddish chick still in its shell in the background is the one that was stuck forever.
I clipped the skin that was sticking to the chick's feathers, and peeled back a few bits of shell, and blood started oozing out. That had me really worried. I knew I hadn't jabbed it. But it didn't look normal. Then, my sister dropped by, and I asked her what she thought I should do. She looked worried and said that she thought I better leave the eggs alone. She said there was too much blood to be normal. A normal egg doesn't have that blood stuff inside. She said they looked like they were premature, and if they did hatch they would still have part of the yolk attached to them.

I was beginning to feel like a failure.  I had been watching these eggs for three weeks! I had a sinking feeling they were all going to die, or not hatch.

I felt bad. My stomach felt nauseated. If you've ever hatched eggs, you've got to admit here's nothing quite as grotesquely painful as watching a premature chicky hatch. Suffice it to say, one of the chicks tried to hatch early on, and died. Afterward, I peeled back a layer of shell and can now confirm that he was very not ready to hatch.

The other chick stayed partially hatched, amid his pink juices. I felt very sorry for him. I wanted him to either die or live. Not suffer. Every so often I gave him a drink of water through a straw, and then I oiled his dry feathers and head that were poking out. On the second evening, of waiting for this poor chick to hatch, he began thrashing around in his shell, and I decided I better help him, preemie or not. I couldn't stand watching him suffer any longer. 
It was now or never. 
I stayed up late helping him hatch. I held my breath as the last bit of shell fell away, and to my surprise, he was fully formed. 
No weird juices, or underdeveloped parts. He was really small. And he was very loud, and noisy. His peep, peep, peeping was what kept him alive. 

Because he was covered in oil from me trying to keep him hydrated, I had to give him a bath. His tense little body relaxed, and I fell in love with the little bugger. I dried him off and went to bed, rejoicing that he was finally free of his shell.

Then my other eggs started hatching! My feelings of failure vanished. Chicks popped out of their shells like magic, black, yellow, white, orange.  All of them beautiful, fully formed, and strong, except for one who had a splayed leg. They all hatched just in time for Easter, though I had not planned it at all. It was just a coincidence.

16 eggs hatched, three died, including the small preemie chick that took forever to hatch. He seemed just fine at first, and then just died.

All in all I have 13 little chicks, and I love them. I love how they fall asleep in my arms. They're so fun to watch.

Yesterday, I decided sum up some courage and pull the plug on the unhatched eggs left in the incubator and call it quits. 
Because I was curious, and also because I wanted to know if there were any signs of life in the unhatched eggs, I got the pile of eggs, and cracked each one open, one at at time.

Uggg. Stink. Gross, and gore. Seriously. It was not a nice task. One experience I will not look on with fondness. 

A lot of the eggs had something living inside them at one point, but for reasons unknown to me, a lot of them looked like the chicks inside had stopped devolving at probably two weeks. I'm not sure why. Maybe a sudden temperature drop.  I have no idea. I'll have to consult google, and my sister about that sad fact. 

So the saying goes, don't count your chicks until they've hatched.
And even after they've hatched, you still shouldn't count them. Just love what you've got, however long you've got.
All in all, I'm amazed at the miracle of life. 
That in less than just 21 days a little, orange yolk can form. A brain, a heart, feet, a beak a head, and everything else to support a body. And that little body knows how to hatch out of that egg. 
 And once it's hatched, it's this little ball of fluff that keeps growing and growing.
It's incredible. 
This whole egg post has put me into a reflective mood. I'm reminded of a quote that really rings true for me on so many levels. 

“If an egg is broken by outside force, life ends. If broken by inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from inside.”

– Jim Kwik

So saying, I truly believe this. The chicks I tried to help from the outside, died.  So too, we can take a lesson from this in life. We may look at our brothers struggling to get out of their "shells" whatever those "shells" might be. We may want to help chip away at the things holding them back. We may tell them that it's time for them to breathe, time for them to live, time for them to be whatever it is we think they need to be. 

But we cannot change them.We can not make them develop faster than they are ready to. In our efforts to help them, we actually keep them inside their shell. In our efforts to bring them out, we keep them trapped inside. We kill the relationship we might have had with them. We may think that sufficient time has passed, and that we, being on the outside, looking in, know that the time is now for them to break forth.

But how little we know of our brothers inside struggle. How little we even know of ourselves. If we took time to look inward we would see that we have so much we ourselves need to develop, that our time would be better spent on working own our own developing "embryo," whatever that may be at the time.

We must all work from the inside out, from the darkness to light, from invisible to visible, from spiritual to temporal. For in the darkness, I think that's where God is, working his magic in the souls of others we cannot see. 

From imagination to reality, from an idea to actuality, life is born. Each little "egg" is different, each needs its own special set of circumstances for life to begin. Each needs a different temperature, humidity, and incubation time.  We all must respect this law, the law of the harvest, the law of creation, of the seed buried underground, and know that for it to grow, it needs the water of encouragement, the soil of safety, room for its creative roots to grow and form, the solitude of darkness---and the warmth of hope to bring it from dark to light. 

So from the creative cocoon of darkness, God speaks to us, and calls us forth from our own unique shells, transforming us from the worm we are, to the butterfly we are meant to be. 

So respect the eggs, the shells and cocoons of others. Respect your own. We are not on a race. But a journey. Don't disturb the nest to see what's developing. You will kill whatever is forming. You may think that whatever is inside looks very strange, very unlike the chick it was supposed to be.

Let the eggs sit quietly. Be patient and wait. If you must be there, only provide enough warmth for life, and encouragement, and you will become an instrument in creation, not a hindrance.

Crab-apple Blossoms and butterfly moments

Thought I'd just drop by and see how ya'll were doing? I've thought about you all a lot. But the pull of the sun, the blossoming buds, the green grasses, and outside tasks that have lain unfinished all winter have beckoned me to them. I decided to share the a bit of spring-time I captured from my own part of the world---hence all the flowery pictures.

Yesterday, I lay down on a garden swing, and closed my eyes, and slept, letting the warmth of the sun relax me to my core. There's something wonderfully lazy, and deliciously abundant about letting one's self relax on such a glorious spring day. At first, my inner "Olga" was like, "wait a minute, you've got tons of things to do, you don't have time to sit and be lazy in the sun. What are you? A rock that can just lie around? What if someone catches you here, sleeping, listening lazily to the birds, like some jungle book creature?"
          My answer back to her was..."So?"
"I am being lazy. So what. It feels fantastic!"
The greater crime would be to let the delicious moment pass by unappreciated. Not to stop and let the rapture of it all sink in seems a great waste. I like to think that God made such days to be fully appreciated, fully lived in, and fully enjoyed, just as a writer, baker, or a painter create not just for their self alone, but for their work to be enjoyed.

God wants us to enjoy his work. To be trapped indoors, to miss the sun, the spring, the green, the air, seems as big a crime as living in a house by the ocean and not going out to swim.  Might as well live freezing wasteland, or in a cement room with no windows. For that's what houses seem like to me on a spring day. Prisons. Where we hold ourselves in, and cling to the man-made things like TVs, computers, and cell phones that disconnects us from nature, each other, and even our selves. 

Oh on such wonderful days like the days we've been having, I wish everyone could step outside together, and remember the abundance of life, the fleetingness of the flowers, so as to cherish each day as a gift. I do believe if everybody did this---let themselves slow down,  look, relax, listen and remember, there would be less crime, and more caring, less selfishness, and more selflessness. 
Less hurry, more contemplation.
Less strife, more direction. 
Less hate and more love.

On Easter morning I wish the church would take their services outside.
Maybe there would be more joy in our meetings. 
I wish that schools would shorten their days so the children could see the sunlight. 
Maybe there would be less depression.  
I wish people who had office jobs didn't have to work such long hours.
Maybe there would be less dissatisfaction and more fulfillment in their lives. 
If we were all more connected to the earth, to God, and each other. 
Maybe the world wouldn't be in such a mess it is in now. 
It makes me sad to see empty yards on such wonderful days.
Where are all the people, I wonder? School, work, slaves to corporations. It seems fairly logical to me that people should all live in hotels, because it seems like more than half the population only use their houses as places to sleep in.
 Then, mostly just on the weekends, sometimes I see people puttering around in their yards. It is then I am reminded that the empty-looking houses around me do contain souls.
Ah, spring, how much I didn't know I missed you. It happens like magic. The tulips, the wee seedlings sprout. The mornings, especially I suddenly become aware of how alive everything is, and how alive, how hopeful the warmth of the sun, and the fresh air, makes me feel and awakens my spirit to rebirth and new possibilities. 

Yesterday, it was the amazing weather, and an unfinished fence that deterred me from writing here.
Now the fence is finished.
View from our kitchen window
And the weather isn't so nice.

It is the wind again that has shooed me indoors---the gray clouds, and the drop in temperature.
But even for nature's thrashing, and bipolar temperament, I don't believe its moodiness one bit.

Tomorrow, I'm sure the sun will be out.
But for now, I guess I'm glad of the wind, even though it is taking away all the fading crab-apple blossoms. 
For it has brought me back to you. 
And even though this is a short post, I'm glad of it. 
I sincerely hope you have been enjoying the spring as much as I have. 

One thing I know for certain, spring won't last, and nor will those rare, Narnian moments of sunshine.
So take rare those moments as they come, and don't shut them out. Don't let them expire, by putting a time limit on yourself or on them. 

Open your windows wide, and let the sunshine in.

Walking through our field.
Like a butterfly, those moments may settle on you, only if you are still. Don't crush them, nor be too busy to appreciate them. They, like little children, will fade and change all too fast. And the wind will blow those moments away like they had never been. 

And you will wonder why life feels cold, hollow and meaningless. 

But if you pause, and open up your mind, you will be amazed at what beautiful moments will be yours, if you let them. 

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