Old Paths Farm Club

The second year of Old Paths Farm Club has begun!

For several years my friend Tina and I searched for a local 4-H club, but had not found the right match for our families. We tossed around the idea of starting our own club, but when we began the process of chartering a club, we quickly realized that all of the red tape involved was not something that we really wanted to take on.

Our county fair is set up in such a way that you do not have to be an “official” 4-H member to enter exhibits or to show animals – any youth can enter. So we decided to start our own 4H-style club instead and we called it Old Paths Farm Club, since most of the its members at the time lived on Old Paths Farm. We may choose to become official someday, but for now this working well for us.

Our little farm club has many of the same goals as a “real” 4-H club. Here are a few:

  • To provide a network of support for our children as they prepare fair projects

    At the monthly meetings, each child gives an update on their projects to the group. This helps them to learn time management as their prepare their projects over the course of the year. It also gives them a chance to encourage one another in their efforts.

  • To provide opportunities for leadership development in the children

    Just like in 4-H, with the support of the group leaders, the children elect officers who run the meetings. All of the children help to make decisions about meeting topics, come up with ideas for service projects and more.

  • To provide rich and varied hands-on learning experiences

    We want each meeting to count! We gather input from the children on what topics they are interested in learning about and use that input to map out a schedule of monthly topics for the year. All of the topics are things that could blossom into a project for the fair, if a child decides to pursue that interest. At each meeting, we spend about an hour focusing on one topic. We invite a guest to come and share their expertise/passion with the group or we teach the topic ourselves. Some of last year’s topics and projects included: gardening, photography, drawing, making fermented foods and preparing and performing a music program for a local nursing home.

  • To provide an opportunity for our children to develop new friendships without sacrificing family time in evenings

    All of the 4-H groups that we checked out had their meetings in the evenings. We are able to have our meetings earlier in the day and still allow time to get home for dinner!

Between our two families, we had five children who wanted to participate in the fair last year. It was a fun inaugural year and we all learned a great deal. (If you’d like, you can read about last year’s gardening meeting HERE and check out our 2015 Fair projects HERE and HERE.)

This year, we decided to open up the club to more families. We now have more than 15 fair-aged children signed up for our club this year, and when all of us get together (moms and babies/toddlers included) we have more than 30 people in the house!

The topic of our first meeting this year was photography.

Tina taught the children about different techniques for photographic composition and then they went outside to try to implement them!

Afterwards, everyone shared a favorite picture with the group and told what technique they were trying to employ.

The children had a fun time taking pictures and we parents really enjoyed seeing what things our children were able to capture!

Here are a few of the pictures that my older three children took during their practice session:








Next month, we will tackle the art of making mozzarella cheese! Yum!

Stay tuned for more updates about our farm club, as well as ideas and tips for starting your own club!

Summer Memories

The summer has faded away, but the memories we’ve made will remain…






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“Some say farewell to summer with a tear,
Others prefer this new time of the year.
Chill September mornings may be here once again,
But our memories of summer will always remain.”

~ Angela Wybrow ~


Mothering Monday: Messy


I sit on the couch nestled close to my sick little Emma. My hand rests on her back as she wheezes and sniffles and coughs and struggles to find her way to sleep.

Her gasping cries compelled me to sit beside her and her tears have held me captive for over twenty minutes now.

So I sit, fixed, waiting for her to drift into deeper sleep. I stroke her hair.

And there is so much to do.

The moments are ticking loud from the clock above my head – they taunt me.

“Tick. Tock. So much to do. Tick. Tock. You’re way behind. Tick. The house is falling apart. Tock. You’re never gonna get it all done. Tick…

Other sick children call from far-off corners of the house, grasping for life-rings of Mommy comfort – a glass of water, a cup of hot tea, a smile or a kind word.

The baby pulls at my skirt, nose dripping, complaining to be held.

And all around me – a mess.

Toys scattered abroad,

used and crumpled tissues in every possible nook and cranny,

wooden puzzle pieces and bits of paper torn from books by chubby little unsupervised hands –

The phone rings – the neighbor wants to stop by and bless us with another 5 gallon bucket of orchard surplus.

The dinner hour draws near and then slips by.

There is so much to do.

An upcoming trip to plan for, garden produce coming in, cards to write and laundry – always laundry.

And here I sit, feeling fettered to the feverish body of my little one. Feeling fettered to the smallness of my life.

I sigh deep down.

When am I ever going to find time to do great things for God?

I want to serve in big ways.

I want to get to know and serve more of our neighbors. I want to write lengthy, inspiring blog articles. I want to help the poor and downtrodden of the world. I have so many ideas of ways in which I can serve my community. When will I ever get to do the things that really matter?

I never seem to get around to the big things.

My life is just too messy. We get sick. We can never seem to be quite organized enough. And even though we maintain a sparse activity schedule, it already feels like life is bursting at the seams. I often wonder: Why can’t I just get my act together enough to do big things?

The thoughts pound and the clock ticks loud.

Suddenly, I recall the words of a long-ago email from a precious mentor…

Your priority is loving your husband and ministering and mothering your children. I know you know that, but it is easy to lose sight in the midst of the day to day. I know I have certainly done it!

Life is very messy and we are all far from perfect, no matter how put together our lives look in our pictures on Facebook. :)

Our mama hearts are so big and we want to do so much, it’s overwhelming sometimes! I will be praying for you while you are in the trenches of raising a young family. I am here to listen whenever you need an ear.

I let her words echo in my mind.

“Life is very messy and we are all far from perfect.”

Wait…all of us are far from perfect? I know quite a few women who seem to come pretty close to it! They have hobbies, ministries – businesses, even – and their large families still seem to run smoothly. 

Have I let covetousness of other people’s lives cloud my sight? In looking ahead to the great things I hope to do for God someday, am I missing hundreds of little things that matter greatly?

Life is very messy.

Could it be that giving this small gift of comfort to my little Emma D in the midst of the mess is the biggest thing I can do at this very moment?

Do I trust God enough to bloom right where I’ve been planted? Do I have faith to let Him water me and produce the fruit in my life that He deems right for me? Will I let him use me in this messy life?


She is breathing heavy now.

I gently rise and step over the toys.

I throw some tissues into the overflowing trash can, call my family to a dinner of leftovers and pull my snotty baby close to nurse.

We bow our heads and someone sneezes and we thank God for the gift of life –

This messy, beautiful life.

The ground is fertile and I’m willing to bloom right here.




The things we always do

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“Family routines easily become family traditions
– those things that “we always do” –
and such traditions are essential
to maintaining a secure sense of family identity.
They build a sense of belonging that all of us were meant to enjoy.

Sally Clarkson, The Mission of Motherhood


Does your family have any traditions – things you “always do”?

I don’t necessarily mean those elaborate holiday and birthday traditions or the fancy vacations – but the simple, every day, every week, every year types of things that make your family your family.

Some of the simple traditions in our house include:

  • Pancake Day

  • Guitar Night

  • Weekly phone visits with Grandma and Grandpa

  • Family Way Night

  • Boo-Boo and Brownie stories by the fire

  • Sabbath morning Bible study

  • Singing Night

  • Carob slushies after gardening

  • Special Friday night dinners with flowers or candles

  • Movie Night

  • The kids’ special nights

  • Evening read-alouds



We didn’t really plan for these things to become “traditions”. They were simply things that we chose to make a priority – to carve out time for – and slowly and steadily they became an integral part of our family life.

At some point they became the things we always do.


And when we have other plans that keep us from our little family traditions – we miss them.


“It is not the fanciness or complication factor
that gives the definition of a family,
but the joy shared and the memories made
and the sense of belonging
generated by a long history of being together.”


What are some of your simple family traditions – the things you always do?

{I would love for you to share with us in the comment section below!}

I hope that you will make time this weekend to enjoy some of your family traditions – or to make new ones!

Related post: Oral Traditions

Yoopers ‘R Us


We recently took a short trip to the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It has long been Dan’s and my favorite part of the state, but our children had never been over the “Mighty Mac”.

As we approached the bridge, we could tell that a mighty storm was brewing up ahead. When it started to downpour and the truck started to blow around, we wondered if the bridge might be closed. Sure enough, as we drew near, we heard on the radio that it was and quickly exited the expressway.


When we pulled off at the Michigan Welcome Center, we heard the news that a trailer had overturned on the bridge because of the wind – and it may be as long as 2 hours until it re-opened!


We had planned on having our picnic lunch at one of the beautiful vistas along Highway 2, but plans had to change! We went down to the park with the bridge view to have lunch. The rain stopped, but all of the tables were wet – so we ate standing up and watching the beautiful waves come in.


When the bridge opened back up, we were off!

Our next stop was the Tahquamenon Logging Museum. Even though there was a gentle rain, we enjoyed exploring the historic buildings and learning about the long tradition of logging in the U.P.


After the logging museum, we checked in to our resort and the sun finally came out.


The resort is located on a private lake out in the middle of nowhere, so it was very quiet. They offered free rowboats, canoes and kayaks, so Dan took the older 4 out for a relaxing trip around the lake while Emma and I watched from the shore. The boaters were thrilled to encounter a family of loons, who sent out their calls as they rowed close. They got to see a mother feeding a young loon and watched him tentatively try to fish for himself. :)


Day Two dawned absolutely beautiful over the lake and we made ready for our day trip up to Lake Superior. We had hoped for (and packed for) warm weather to swim, but Michigan is not known for its consistent weather and the day turned out cool.

We stopped at Tahquamenon Falls State Park and hiked down to see the falls.


Caroline enjoyed her piggy back ride with Daddy.



We continued north to Whitefish Point Light Station and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.


The children were fascinated by the tale of the Edmund Fitzgerald. After viewing a short documentary at the theater on the famous wreck (which was, of course, accompanied by Gordon Lightfoot’s song), they couldn’t stop humming the tune all through the day and into the night. (Thanks a lot, Gordon.)


We had planned to swim, but it ended up being too cold. That didn’t stop us from enjoying the beautiful Lake Superior – wading, splashing, rock-hunting and shouting over the wonderful wind and waves as we ate our picnic lunch on the beach.

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On the way back to Newberry, we took in dinner at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub. We enjoyed a dinner of whitefish that had just been caught and brought the restaurant. It was delicious!

On Day Three, we headed straight north back up to Superior and visited Muskallonge State Park. It was a beautiful (and deserted) beach and we enjoyed the brisk morning there.



Our next stop was the Log Slide Overlook that is part of the Grand Sable Dunes. We had our lunch there.



We took Route H-58, which is partially paved (but mostly “rustic”), all the way over to Munising, where we took the  Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise.


We were captivated by the natural beauty of the formations.




After the cruise, we hung out at the harbor and listened to a band playing at the Farmer’s Market while Dan hunted out some dinner for us.


On Day Four, we packed up and headed east to Sault Ste. Marie to check out the Soo Locks. After reading all about the locks in Paddle-to-the-Sea, we were excited to see how they worked in real life!




It was a beautiful day as we crossed back over the bridge on our way home.


We thoroughly enjoyed seeing this part of God’s amazing creation – the majestic Great Lakes!


There were four photographers on this trip – Abigail, Iliana, Jonathan and myself.
The photos above were selected from all of our albums.

How We “Faired”


Whew! What a week!

We just finished up fair week for the year. This was the first year we bought a weekly pass, so we tried to make the most of it by attending some part of the fair every day from Monday-Friday.

Still exhibit projects and interviews, carnival rides, picnics, fun with friends, a rodeo, ice cream, historic buildings, old-time games, animals and a demolition derby made for a very fun, yet tiring, week.

Children ages 5-8 can exhibit their projects in a non-competitive class called “Clover Sprouts”. They are still required to have an interview with the judge and they receive a participation ribbon for each project.

This was Grace’s first year entering a project into the fair. She decided to make a super-yummy cookie recipe from the Murray household. The judge said they were very tasty! What Grace was most proud of learning through her many practice batches was how to crack an egg all by herself. She told everyone not to worry, though, because she uses a separate bowl so no eggshells end up in the batter. :)


Jonathan is also a Clover Sprout. He decided that he wanted to build a bat house, both to display at the fair, and to hang on our property. He used the building plans from this very educational website. He also decided to do his Spring Program nature study presentation on bats. He brought his poster to the fair to display with the bat house. He and Dan really enjoyed working together to build the house. Jonathan learned how to write up a materials list; use the builder’s square to measure wood; how to use a miter saw (Dan used the table saw), punch and power drill; and how to nail, sand, caulk and paint. He can’t wait to hang it up and watch the bats!

The judge wrote in the comments, “Awesome job on the bat house! I really loved how educational the poster was, too.”


This was Iliana’s first year in competitive classes. She entered two projects.

First, she entered Food Preparation (Baking) with a chocolate cake. Both the cake and the frosting are required to be “from-scratch”. She made several excellent cakes over the last few months in preparation for the fair. On the morning of the judging, however, things didn’t quite go as planned! (Be sure to ask her about the funny story when you see her!)

She pulled through with a good attitude and did her best, and ultimately, received an “A” award ribbon (excellent) for her hard work. There were no other layer cakes in her class – most of the children made cookies or cupcakes. When I asked her if she would rather do something easier than a layer cake, she responded with – “I really want to learn how to make a layer cake, though, so that you don’t always have to make the birthday cakes and I can make them for my own children someday.” Way to think ahead! ;)


Iliana’s second project was in the “Collections” class. She entered her rock collection and used a poster that she made last year for her presentation in the Spring Program. Dan built the display box for her and she lined it with rough, shiny scrapbook paper that looked like sand. Each rock is numbered and labeled in the corresponding project book that was required. Next time you visit, you can view her collection in the children’s museum.

Iliana was very surprised to find that she won Reserve Champion for her collection!


Abigail entered four projects this year – food preparation (baking), photography, needlework and vegetable gardening.

She entered the “5 Related Photographs” class with a series of pictures taken early in the morning after a rain. Here are the 5 she chose:












She received an “A” award (excellent) and some very good comments from the judge during her interview. Abigail’s very first fair project was photography (at age 7) and she still enjoys it.

Abigail’s second project was baking. She made a delicious apple pie that received an “A” ribbon.


Abigail tried her hand at embroidery, after learning how to do it for a church service project earlier this year. The project she entered is only her 2nd time trying embroidery, so she was surprised to find that she received a “Best of Class” ribbon, in addition to her “A” ribbon!



Finally, she entered some vegetables. Do you remember me mentioning her gardening project back in March? Even with starting her plants that early in the year, two of her three entries for the fair were not ready in time. Once she got the plants in the ground, the weather turned cold again. Even though it didn’t frost, the ground was so cold that the plants’ growth was stunted. Although she had some very large tomatoes and a big squash out in the garden, they were both still green!

Her entry for the “Most Unusual Vegetable” did ripen in time, however. The judges agreed that her Poona Kheera cucumbers were most unusual and her vegetables along with her interview earned her a Reserve Champion ribbon!


Here are a few more pictures from the week…



Grace baking up a (sand)storm in the kids play area

Grace baked up a (sand)storm in the kids play area


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Caroline’s first equine experience



Working on some old-time puzzles





Emma begged for me to call her “class” to the front row bench of the historic schoolhouse. Once she arrived at the front, I asked her “What is one plus one?” Her loud answer echoed joyfully through the wooden-floored room – “Three!”



Ma and Pa Mudge and their 12 children lived in this one-room cabin once up on a time



Jonathan preaches in the historic church building