Sunday, January 26, 2014

Answered Prayers

As has been mentioned, Charlie has been frustrated with his schedule at work for months now. He has only once or twice gotten two days off in a row, they have regularly scheduled him to close the store one day and open the next, he only gets his schedule a week in advance making planning a life next to impossible, and there has been no consistency or predictability at all. Needless to say, it has really been wearing him down a lot.

Wanting to give it one last effort before finding other employment, Charlie went to his manager earlier this month about his concerns and frustrations. Initially he was told, "well, if you want those things, you're in the wrong business." After bringing up the fact that these things had been possible under a previous manager who is no longer there, Charlie was told if he could figure out a way of doing a schedule that the other two Asset Protection guys would like too, that it would be considered. Armed with this information, Charlie talked with his coworkers and found out what it was they wanted in an ideal world. When those requests were all put on paper, he brought it home, and we gave it a quick look. It turns out that it only took about 10-15 minutes to come up with a schedule that met the needs of all three of them. We nicely put it all into a schedule, and Charlie copies of the proposed schedule back to work and gave them to his coworkers and bosses. We then went to praying that the managers would not find fault in the schedule and give excuses why it could not be implemented.

Today at work, Charlie got some great news. They have agreed to at least try out the schedule and see how it works for everyone, and it will go into effect a week from today. Needless to say, the full-time guy is really grateful and excited about the prospects, and Charlie is both thrilled and relieved about the possibility of being able to make plans more than a couple of days in advance. (Sarah is super excited because he is already walking with a lighter step and is in a better mood too.)

We are so thankful to all of the folks who were praying with us that things would turn around for Charlie at work. You are such a blessing in our life.

God Bless!

Green Onion Project

Part of the Sheffers' overall plan involves growing as much of our own produce as possible. Here's the rub. Charlie has a fair bit of experience getting veggies and such to grow, but he works a lot and doesn't have much time to devote to the garden. Sarah has plenty of time to work in a garden, but she has a history of killing every single plant that she has ever had. The solution, of course, is for Charlie to do what he can when he can while Sarah learns to keep plants alive long enough to get food from them. However, considering that Sarah has regularly killed "very hardy" plants, a better plan than "do better" is going to need to be employed. Enter: Science. Sarah can totally monitor a long term science experiment. The Green Onion Project, while a boring name, is the first of what we hope to be many experiments and projects in food production.

The Green Onion Project started because Sarah had read a bunch of times that it is possible to sprout and grow green onions from the "waste" from some green onions purchased in the produce department. So, low financial risk on this attempt. Sounds like a good place to start. The little root ends were placed in water and left on the kitchen counter to see what happens.

Here's Day 2, and you can already see the difference between where they were cut and how much they have grown.

Day 6. The toaster to the left gives you an idea of plant height at this point.

Day 12. Lots of growth, but they are starting to look a bit sickly. It probably doesn't help that there is very little sunlight in the kitchen. Today, Sarah splurged and bought a daylight bulb setup. This $10 is the first cost for the project.

Day 17. Five days with the light has really made these green up. They're looking pretty healthy and may have set a record for Sarah keeping a plant alive.

Day 18. Onions were transplanted into soil. (Another $2 invested since there is not easy access to dirt in January in Wisconsin. At $12, this free project is starting to get expensive. At least most of it is reusable if it doesn't work in the end.) They are looking pretty seems, those rubber bands holding them together were doing a lot more than it appeared. This is much closer to the way that Sarah's plants normally look....except they're not dried out, brown, and dead quite yet.
Day 29: Alive and growing like crazy.
We have decided to declare the Green Onion project to be a success. Sarah managed to keep something green alive for a whole 4 weeks, and we now have yummy food growing in our house! It's a tiny first step on our trek toward a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle.

Note: A special thank you goes out to everyone who put up with Sarah's excitement for the last month as she managed to keep a plant alive. We love you lots.

God Bless!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Amish Hippies

A pastoral life on a hobby farm is apparently difficult for a lot of people to comprehend. We're not going to be Amish just because our current vision for life includes draft horses for wagon and sleigh rides. We are not going to join with the hippies who sit in the woods and wail because trees are cut down. We just don't feel that a minivan in the suburbs is going to meet our emotional and spiritual needs. (Can any one of you really see Sarah driving the soccer car pool?) We know that the path that we want to take is less traveled and will require support from family and friends along the way. Here's a few of the reasons why we want this route, so you can remind us when we get in the middle of a mess and forget.

In an urban setting, you see a lot of man made things, and there is nothing wrong with that. In a rural setting, you are surrounded by God's creation. It is easier for us to be reminded of God's power when it is constantly right in front of you. We both fall victim at times to trying to wrest total control over our lives and worry about all sorts of things instead of placing our trust in His strength. One of our goals for getting out of the city is to do a better job of remembering the source of our strength to live our lives.

We are sick and tired of dealing with battling with the City on rules, requirements, red tape, and fees. Last year, we went rounds with the Housing Inspector's Office in Green Bay. This year, we are going rounds with some office wanting to raze the house because we haven't fixed it fast enough after the fire for their taste. (Insurance and construction companies can't quite work overnight folks, and we could have told you that if you had bothered send correspondence to the correct address or even name on the blasted title.) Neither Green Bay nor La Crosse allow the pets that we want, the city of La Crosse has rules about not having a car that doesn't run in view of the street, and you should have seen the explosion at the Sheffer household when we found out how much the meter fees and cost for "storm drain usage" were (double what our actual usage cost was). We're not bitter. Really, we're not. We're just annoyed and ready to be done with the foolishness of city government. Yes, the county, state, and federal governments will still hold sway, but we will have one less layer to battle.

We like fresh food. Green beans really do taste better when you eat them 20 minutes after they're picked. It's nice to know that your tomatoes weren't picked green and shipped for 2 weeks. (If you're going to pick them green, they should be fried up that day. Fried green tomatoes....mmmmm.....) It's a pretty big challenge to grow much food when you are very limited on space. Yes, there is a lot you can do with various intensive gardening practices. There's a lot more that you can do with room for a small orchard, lots of berry bushes, a couple of thousand square feet of garden, and a green house for year round food production. We also like home canned food. The jams and jellies in the store can not even begin to compete with the jams that you get when you pick the berries in the morning and make jam later that same day.

It is easy to go with the flow and drift when so many things around you are convenient. A little bit of a challenge requires more deliberate effort in life, and that's a good thing. You appreciate things more when you work for them. You accomplish more when you are making conscious decisions about how you are spending your time.

As a side note: We are not planning to go all Green Acres on this project and just buy a farm and move to the country. We have already started developing some of the skills that we will need to make a successful transition. Some of our attempts have been more successful than others. We are planning to do a better job of sharing those projects as we go along.

God Bless!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Blessings and Struggles

This week has been full of ups and downs for the Sheffers. We, as always, are aware of how richly blessed we are. Life isn't perfect though, and we've had a few hiccups this last week too.

Upside - After cancelling all social plans for the last two weeks, we are both solidly on the mend and only have that last little bit of a cough to kick. Life in that realm has pretty much returned to normal.

Upside - Sarah has plans on the calendar for a weekend trip to Green Bay. She hasn't been able to get back there since the move last April, and she is really looking forward to seeing as many of the amazing people that we know there as is possible. Lynn will be joining for the trip, so it will be an easier drive and a chance for a girls' weekend.

Downside - Our dear sweet car Allie has decided to turn traitor. She has spent the week at the auto shop waiting for parts and an open repair slot, so we can have power steering again. Hopefully, repairs will be finished tomorrow, and she will start to behave more like a lady.

Upside - Sarah has had fun with various "science experiments" this last week, and none of them involved anything fuzzy in the back of the fridge. #1 the green onion roots have sprouted nicely just like the gardening website said that they would. They are scheduled to be transplanted into an actual pot for growing sometime in the next week. #2 we now know what pumpkin muffins look like when you forget to add the baking soda. At least it was only one of the 8 batches where it happened. #3 the "trick" for getting the whole wheat bread to rise to be sandwich bread instead of rather dense loaves has finally been found after many attempts. Double upside? We should be free and clear of the store bought stuff for now and be able to enjoy delicious homemade bread for all of our sandwich and toast needs.

Downside - Charlie has grown more frustrated with the scheduling at work. For a few weeks now, the majority of his shifts have been closing the store one night followed by opening the next morning. They have also continued to be rather lax about actually giving him his time off requests, and we are long past the retail holiday surge. Prayers for resolution would be greatly appreciated.

Upside - Work has finally begun on restoring the house in Green Bay (aka "The Barn"). It has required a lot of time on the phone with calls to insurance, mortgage, and contractor people (enough that the contractors recognize Sarah when she calls), but we are finally getting somewhere. Provided there are no more major delays, the repairs should be done early to mid March, and as soon as everything is complete, we have an offer for purchase. We are VERY excited at the prospect of finally being able to pay on only one residence.

Upside - With the holiday rush over and the bout with illness nearing completion, Sarah has finally been able to start getting into the routine of being home full time. This has brought a whole host of upside items, like: we no longer run the risk of being out of clean socks because we aren't both dog tired from working retail, we are enjoying more homemade meals and snacks and have had a significant decrease in the items that grow fuzz in the fridge because we have forgotten them, and we haven't run out of clean dishes in quite a while now. We are by no means one of those perfect houses that you see in a magazine, but at least it no longer looks like we could be on the next episode of COPS.

Overall, it's been a good week here, and we're ahead in the score card.

God Bless!

Monday, January 6, 2014


Ok, so we're not really under a quarantine order, but it sort of feels like we should be.

Last week we rang in the new year at home. Not because we didn't have places to go. We did. It was more because Sarah was in bed by 6:30pm with a fever to go along with a horrible cough. We almost did still ring in the new year out of the house, but the fever stayed below the threshold where the nurse felt that we could skip the ER visit and instead monitor at home and hopefully sleep it off. (This did not prevent Charlie from being very worried and checking every 20-30 minutes to see if he should go start warming up the car.)

A week has now passed, and while the last tail end of the bug is hanging on, Sarah is definitely on the mend and will be hopefully clear in a few more days. Charlie has been fighting the cough for a couple of days now and last night finally got hit hard by the fever and coughing. He was somehow upright today though and is currently at work. Hopefully it will go well since the car is in the shop right now, so there is no second vehicle to go pick him up if he has problems.

Prayers for speedy recovery are appreciated.

God bless!