Tuesday, August 30, 2011


 Not sure why I have been too busy to post, but I do know that autumn always ends up being busier than summer was.  You'ld think I would finally learn THAT lesson! 

We are back in the saddle again with homeschool starting Aug 22nd, but it's so different without Luke in the mix. After much deliberation and discussion, we decided to have Luke attend public school this year to test the waters- we will see if he sinks or swims, I guess. 

So far, he seems to enjoy the thought of going to school with his peers, but the actuality of getting up early and boarding a bus at 6:40, spending 10 hours a day with kids who aren't exactly showing him the "Welcome Back, Luke" hospitality that he had expected and/or hoped for, and having to do homework after a long day of bus, school, and football practice is beginning to sink in.

I think homeschooling with Mom is starting to look, dare I say,  "PRETTY GOOOOOOOODD!"

I have no concerns with Luke handling the curriculum- he's a bright kid and learns fast.  It's more the peer interaction that I get concerned about- feelings hurt, esteem stomped, common sense compromised...normal junior high junk.

Anyway, we have switched gears from "lazy summer" to "structured fall" and so far, it's falling into place fairly nicely.  I love learning right along with the kids, and I'm counting on all of this mental exercise to delay the onset of my alzheimer dementia. :-)

Sending our I800 form to finalize Quinn's immigration paperwork was delayed due to a mistake on the cover letter from our agency, so I am still waiting to get that mailed off. We have no idea yet when we will travel, but it should be within the next 2 months, and I'm getting so excited to go and get her!

Our request for completing a concurrent adoption, to include a baby (due in September that we were asked to adopt by a good friend of mine), has been denied by our agency.  We are very disappointed by their decision, but we made a committment to bringing Quinn home, and we can't jeopardize that.  We could've put her adoption off for 6 months to adopt this baby first, but Quinn has already been in an orphanage for almost 2 years and NEEDS to get home!  Having found a wonderful family that is excited about adopting this baby has made this easier to accept, and we continue to pray that we will be given more opportunities to add to our family.

We have been frantically begging home movers to FINALLY give us a date for moving our house to the other farm, and we are beginning to at least get a few phone calls returned.  It is a complicated and intricate dance between movers, concrete workers, the backhoe guy that tears down the house and digs the new basement, electricians, plumbers, furnace guy, and other workers that I can't recall right now!

Meanwhile, I am boxing up anything breakable or that is on the wall, and I finished scraping all of the adhesive from the hardwood floors.  We hope to refinish them over the next 2 weeks so that is done before the house is moved. 

We are also scavenging anything from the old house that is salvagable and that can be used either on this house, or for other buildings on the farm.  The current projects are removing the hardwood floors and pulling the counters/cupboards from the kitchen to be used in our mudroom/milkroom.  These projects are tiring, and take so much time, and that is something we are running out of. 

My nesting urges are in full swing, and I just want to get my home where it needs to be and my family tucked into it for the winter. My Type A personality is just SCREAMING to get my house in order so I can go to China and bring home our little girl.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Many hands make the workload lighter~

Between adoption paperwork, chaos of starting homeschool this week, and trying to get our house moved to the other farm, I was getting behind just a little.  

 Okay, alot.

So imagine my surprise when the girls and I are doing school and all of a sudden my Aunt Gayle shows up, loaded with lunch and snacks, soon followed by my Mom, also loaded with lunch and snacks. 

(I'm not sure if it's a Norwegian thing or a Mom thing, but the women in my family always feel we have to feed our loved ones.  It's just our thing.)

The Reinforcements had arrived.  And they were anxious to get started.

 It felt like Publishers Clearing House had shown up at my door. 

Being caught off guard, I didn't have a to-do list handy, but since my kitchen table was literally covered in tomatoes, we thought it best to start there. 

So we spent the day canning 18 pints of salsa, 12 quarts of tomato sauce, 8 quarts of chili chunked tomatoes, and 7 quarts of dill pickles.  (Is that awesome, or what?!)  Picked and snapped green beans, and did laundry.  These ladies are incredible, and they worked tirelessly and cheerfully.  Did I mention that these are my two favorite women in the WORLD!?  Well, they are.
Grandma Lee cutting onions with a spoon in her mouth to keep her eyes from watering.  PS- it didn't work!

(Don't the girls look upset at having to miss a day of school??)

Aunt Gayle, gathering the last few tomatoes as the jars begin to cover the table.

I totally understand why women used to get together for Quilting Bees- there is something so engaging about working together, visiting about everything and nothing, and having the reassurance that you aren't alone in your work. 

So here's to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Dishcloth (?) and to the camaraderie that comes with helping out your fellow man  woman in their time of need! 

Mom and Gayle- you two are the best.  Thank you~


Monday, August 22, 2011

Licensed to Drive

I guess it's our own fault..............
It's official!

Flexing his driving muscle??

Just when you think it's safe to go out on the road.....

Beware: Guard dog on the premises

After losing over 20 laying hens and 4 ducks this summer to raccoons and minks, I decided that we needed a farmdog.  (yes, other than the 3 little Shih Tzus that belong to the kids, and would just lick an intruder into submission.)

We had begun discussing breeds and which would work best on our farm, and how Dad would feel about having another mouth to feed on the farm.

Then the County Fair arrives, and we innocently walk through the Old McDonalds farm, and see this:

1/2 Pyraneese, 1/2 Newfoundland (good guard dog combination), only $25.00 (what a deal!) and cute as a bug's ear (not necessary, but it sure helped get him in the door!)

Meet Axel, the newest member of the Johnson household!  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Frugal Friday

He that has a penny in his purse, is worth a penny: Have and you shall be esteemed. ~ Petronius
Harvest continues, and sweet corn season was at it's peak this past week for our area.  For those fields that received enough rain and didn't receive nightly raccoon visits, they were producing pure golden sunshine, all wrapped up in a cornhusk.

We husked 10 dozen ears of corn to produce 16 frozen quart bags of corn for this winter, plus we had a few good meals of fresh sweet corn!  Nothing says "Summer" like sweet corn and watermelon- unfortunately I can't seem to grow watermelon to save my life, so we will stick to the sweet corn!

On the corn, we do a quick steam blanch on the stove for 3 minutes, plunge the hot ears into the sink full of cold water, then let them cool.  I then take our electric knife and cut off the corn from the cob, scoop it into quart bags, and freeze it immediately.  The quicker you can get corn processed, the better, because the sugars begin turning into starch as soon as the ears are picked.  So to have sweet corn instead of starchy corn, I freeze them the same day it is picked.

The corn works out to cost around $1.67 a quart bag.  It would've cost less, if I hadn't had to purchase the corn this year.  (Mental note- we need to move the corn patch FAR AWAY from the cattle yard, so if the gate is left unhooked again next year......well, you know where this is going.)

I no sooner got done with the corn, that I noticed many tomatoes had turned red, so I began preparing for our first Tomato harvest of the summer.

Since I didn't have alot of time this week, with Fair activities and all, I went ahead and canned plain Tomato sauce and Chopped tomatoes.  Both are fast and easy to prepare.

After washing our tomatoes, we core them and throw them into the blender.  This is Camille's favorite part, as she likes to watch the "tornado" from the top of the blender.  (this is how I get help in the kitchen- turn it into a science project.)

We cook the tomato sauce so it is hot, then put it in jars with 1/2 tsp salt, and put it in a waterbath for 20 minutes.

The chopped tomatoes are also easy- I only use Roma tomatoes, and cut them into small pieces to be used as "chunk" tomotoes for chilis and stews.  They hold their shape nicely even during processing, so I grow alot of these.  Put the chunks into a jar, pour hot/almost boiling water over them, add 1/2 tsp salt, and process for 25 minutes.

tomatoe sauce (left) and chopped tomatoes (right)
It is so satisfying watching the canning room shelves begin to fill up with vegys, fruits, and jams.  I think it's a basic instinct to stock up before winter- must be the retro-pioneer woman in me. :-)

Monday, August 15, 2011

OMG, it's our LOA!

It's funny how the whole adoption process works- you put in tons of hours doing paperwork, getting physicals, and preparing your dossier for China, then you do alot of w.a.i.t.i.n.g.

So you get kind of good at waiting, and you begin busy with life again, and just when things are crazy, as they are this week with our Fair schedule, the adoption paperwork suddenly becomes front and center in your life.  Everything else screeches to a stop.

Your LOA has arrived!  (Letter of Acceptance from China)

Loren signing our LOA
So, tomorrow morning BEFORE we head back to the fair to do our fair "stuff", we must head up to Sioux Falls to find a Fed Ex office so we can get this paperwork sent off to our China team asap.
So, China has officially accepted our application for Quinn, and we are entering our last leg of the paperwork journey.  (whew!)

And you know what LOA means!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  PICTURES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

INTRODUCING:   Quinn Aleathe Qinqiao Johnson

Yes, go ahead and say it........I know you are thinking it already. 


We are in love....and can't wait to go and bring her home.


Fair Time

It's that time of year again- the August heat is wearing us down, school is just around the corner, and the scramble to prepare our projects for the Turner County Fair begins!

Last minute touches on a sewing project

Baking cookies!
 The fair is our family last stab at summer fun- we do a day of the rides, eat lots of funnel cake, cotton candy, and Indian tacos, and visit with friends while watching livestock shows and walking the fairgrounds.  The kids will show animals and crafts on Monday, work the 4H food stand on Tuesday,  do the wristband rides on Wednesday, and the 4H program and games on Thursday. 

There are several "shows" that are presented before the actual fair, done earlier due to time constraints, scheduling conflicts, and so that they are done before the state events.  The girls competed in both the Dog Show and Cat show.

Camille and Hannah

Bri and Emma

Turner and Tripp County dog show contestants
Camille and Cookie

Dietrich and Camille

Moyra, Dietrich, and Camille receiving showmanship ribbons
As with every opportunity to win something, there is always the chance the kids will come home feeling despondent because they didn't win.  This gives us the chance to practice good sportsmanship and to learn that it's not the ribbon that is the goal, but the skill learned and the experience you gain participating. 

The contests allow them to try and fail, with the support of their family, so they will learn how to accept failure graciously, and also how to plan and strategize for success the next time.

 Didn't win the top Showmanship award this year?  Practice and review the questions more before the contest next year.  Your rabbit was underconditioned and got a blue instead of a purple?  Plan a better feed program and make sure to keep the rabbit cool next August prior to the fair. 

How else can we learn to become problem solvers for life if we don't have problems to solve?  These opportunities equip them with the tools to deal with life's many obstacles and they learn to look for the solutions instead of giving up.

 It also shows our kids that they CAN fail, and come out on the other side of it wiser and ready for the challenge next time, armed with a toolbox of skills.  Being in groups like 4H or Boy Scouts gives kids the chance to learn this very important life skill of problem solving.

So bring on the Fair!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Watch out!!

For those of you who may be out and about driving today- consider yourself warned.  Luke is taking his 6 hours of practical Drivers Ed today.  :-)

(I won't mention that he has already busted a rear headlight and a side mirror backing out of the garage.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Retail Therapy

To combat the anxiety we have been facing this past week, we decided to do our school and Quinn shopping yesterday!

Grandma Lee rode shotgun, and we headed off for Sioux Falls, first completing some minor errands, then met Aunt Gayle, Kellie, Glenda, and their grandchildren at Pizza Ranch to down some nourishment before hitting the streets again.  (I can eat an amazing amount of Cactus dessert pizza- something I thought you should know about me.) 

We found all of Quinn's clothing at Once upon a Child, along with some toys, and I feel much better having enough clothes for her.  Could little girls clothes get any cuter?  Even picked out a dress for her court day- I'm getting so darn anxious to get that little pumpkin.....! 

 It is tricky when I don't know what size she wears, so I'm playing it safe by having 18 mo-size 3 outfits, just in case.  The shoes will just have to wait until we get her- who thought I would ever do "shoe shopping" in China??!

We had decided to allow Luke to attend public school this year, for reasons that I'll have to go over at another time, so we had to "school shop" for clothes for the first time in 5 years.  He looked almost shell shocked when we kept bringing him items to try on at Platos, and he kept muttering "this is just like Christmas".  Too funny :-)

I also scored several hugs from him...definitely worth the trip!

 We just don't shop for clothes often, and the great thing about homeschooling is that you can show up in your jammies if you want, so clothing hasn't had alot of importance for us.
Here is their Sears Pose!

Luke and Bri in new tops- Bri chose this with her gift cert she won at Rodeo Bible Camp.

(For you Frugal Followers out there, note that all the clothing we bought was at consignment stores!  I just can't bring myself to buy clothing at retail store prices.)

Since the girls weren't getting clothing, they were looking forward to getting school supplies.  Bri's eyes light up when she sees the aisles of markers, paint, and folders, and I thought at one point she may actually hyperventilate. With supplies in hand, we are now ready to begin our school year.

Momma splurged alittle as well.  See what I found at the Ys Buys store?  (like a Goodwill, but run by the YMCA)

I'm a sucker for antique furniture...
 All in all, a fun day and great annual treat for everyone!  Next week is County Fair, then we start school the week afterwards.  Summer is winding down.....


This  past week has been one of unrest...waiting for decisions to be made and wondering how we will react to the news. Our family has been discussing and praying for the result that WE want, but at the same time, we are trying to be open to what God would want us to do.

Was this situation brought to us because it was meant to be, or was it just a matter of convenience that we were asked to take on this particular task?  (And by "task", I mean "Momentous Honor and Priviledge";  I do not mean to lessen the importance of this request.  It is more amazing than Mountain Top Incredible, if that gives you an idea of the significance of it.)

Meanwhile, we try to still the butterflies in our stomach, whisper prayers during our daily tasks, and continue to wait for a very important call.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Frugal Friday~

"He who does not economize will have to agonize"-Confusius

Preserving Cabbage~
There are a few great ways of preserving cabbage- choosing the one that suits you depends on how you plan on using it.  One year, we tried making sauerkraut, but Loren and I were the only ones to eat it, so now I freeze it and use it in stir fry meals, casseroles, and soups.

I prefer a white cabbage for freezing, but I also grow red cabbages to use fresh during the summer for coleslaw and other summer salads. The red cabbage tends to "color" dishes with it's red color when it's cooked, so I stick to the white cabbage.

After cleaning the cabbage and coring it, it can be frozen either in wedges (see above) or it can be cut up or grated and frozen that way. (below)

I steam the cabbage for about 5 minutes, then plunge it into cold water, shake the water out, and bag it in a freezer bag for freezing.

Grated or Wedges
Cabbage is an easy and inexpensive food to grow and preserve.  Start them as seedlings or plant them directly into the garden.  You can actually grow 2 crops a year in most parts of the U.S. if you start the seedlings indoors.

Bring on the coleslaw!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


This video really speaks to me and reminds me to look at life's events in a different light.  Loren and I have been beaten up by life's little disasters, but each time, we seem to grow in faith and strength, and this song reminds me of that.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer Swelter

The weather continues to be hot and muggy, and much of our time is spent scheduling our activities around the heat.
Last week, Camille talked me into getting her hair cut, so off we went to Gayle's shop.

Here are before and after pictures:

Bri ended up getting a trim as well, and we sent Camille's hair off to Locks of Love.  They are both so thrilled with the shorter hair, especially with this heat.

I'm going back and forth between food harvesting/canning and preparing for Quinn to come home.  Today, I harvested the rest of the beets and plan on canning them today or tomorrow.  I had also picked 2 grocery sacks full of green beans, but ended up throwing them to the chickens because between the humidity and the heat, those beans were just plain rubbery!  Hardly worth all of the work that it would take to can them.  It just about killed me to not be able to use them, but instead, I've been watering the bean plants to get them to produce more beans for a September picking.  I've only canned 30 quarts of beans so far, and we go through  more than that in a year.

Managed to also freeze 12 quarts of blueberries for use over the winter.  It's worth it to buy them when it's less than $2.00/pint because during the fall/winter months, they get very expensive.  We chop them up and put them in waffles and in oatmeal, and the kids eat them right out of the freezer like mini-popsicles!

The rest of the week is being spent on house repairs- I'm hoping to get most of these projects done before things get too busy around here this fall.  I painted the new front door and that's drying outside, cleaned and packed up the office and got it ready for our new school year, ordered school books, started painting the office, weeded the large garden, canned 8 quarts of pickles and 6 quarts of beets, and I'm working on all the final financing details for our China adoption. I think I'm nesting!! 

 Can't wait to get the house moved so that we can re-arrange the kids to different bedrooms.  I would love to get Quinn's room set up before we leave to get her.  We are on day 54 of the LOA wait- if nothing else, this process is teaching me to be patient!