Thursday, March 29, 2012

Life on the Vine

posted by Beck

We found out about our big 2012 adventure on New Year's Day. Pretty appropriate if you ask me. I didn't even tell JP I had suspicions. The rest of the house wasn't even up yet when I confirmed what I already knew in my heart to be true. I climbed back in bed and said the following to my groggy husband, "Well, 2012 is going to be a big year for us..." His response:  "No way!" Funny enough, I have a little notebook where I jotted down a few early memories of my pregnancy with LJ (intended for the still yet-to-be-marred-by-ink baby book) and was reminded that he reacted EXACTLY the same way when I surprised him with the same news nearly 3 years ago. So predictable, my husband.

We've had some really beautiful days lately. We've also had a bit of rain, which is extremely important for us in this new life. Grow little grapes, grow! So far we've only seen one vineyard with green blooms, the rest still look brown like ours. Hopefully in the next few weeks we'll see some sprouts!

I miss the privacy the leaves give us.

We've been keeping ourselves entertained with fun low-cost community activities lately. A fun band that plays songs for kids one evening a week at a local coffee shop, story time at the local library and open toddler time at the local gymnastics center. And, of course, lots of time outside.

 LJ especially enjoys helping daddy on the tractor.

There's a really cool ram that hangs out with the goats behind our property. I haven't seen it yet, but JP got to touch it the other day and was really excited about it.

The chicken mansion is still a work in progress. We can't wait to finish the vineyard clean up so this can become a priority again. The chickens are thriving though. They love it and finally trained themselves to go in and out at night.

No eggs yet, but one of the roosters has been working on his cock-a-doodle-doos. It was pretty weak at first, but he's getting the hang of it.

We (meaning JP and his helpers) have cleared almost all of the debris out of the vineyard. Meanwhile, the pile at the back of the property continues to grow. No idea how we're going to get rid of all this!

Hopefully the neighbors will want to help us host a really big bonfire!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Tiki-Inspired Bedroom for LJ

 LJ's new room is about 90% finished! I've been talking for weeks about moving him into a regular bed, but wanted to get his room completely done first. He still hasn't moved into the bed yet, but once I get the other side rail put together so he won't fall out, it's game on! I'll be glad to get him out of the crib. Every night has been a struggle because he likes to do what he calls "up downs." This means, climb out of his crib multiple times and pitty pat down the hall to see what the rest of us are doing. Not sure this problem will be remedied by a new bed, but maybe he won't be as excited by the challenge and we can stop this "up down" business.

Rather than fix up the room he's been in, we just decided to move him into the other empty bedroom that already had the twin bed set up.

I am so excited about how it turned out! I had a vision in my head and, though it didn't turn out exactly like I pictured, I'm pretty happy with it. There are still a few details to add. A few shelves here and there - including the Pinterest-inspired IKEA spice racks-turned-bookshelves that I need to paint and hang in his little corner reading area.

Enough chit chat though. Here are a few pics!

I really struggled on a "theme" for the room. I had two rules in mind. 1) I wanted it to be fun! 2) I wanted it to showcase things that my son loves. LJ loves balls of all kinds, but I didn't really want to do a sports theme. He loves guitars, but a guitar theme seemed a bit old for my little toddler. I thought about pictures of characters from his favorite kids shows, but I wasn't sure I could execute it without it being cheesy and too young. I loved the beachy surfer theme of his nursery and he does love fish, so I decided to take that to the next level and bring in some of the elements I mentioned earlier (i.e. balls and guitars.)

I ordered the lanterns on to give the illusion of "balls" hanging from the ceiling. I had the fishing net (purchased for $5 at a party supply store) on hand for a different decorating project. I bought the dresser from someone on craigslist for $30 and painted the front of the drawers this snappy green color. I LOVE the picture of the tropical fish. Would you believe that's a photograph taken at the Monterey Bay Aquarium?! After combing the internet for a tropical fish poster that I liked with little success, I kept visualizing the tropical fish tank at the MBA. I searched my Shutterfly archives and sure enough, found this picture that my sis-in-law took on our trip there last spring. I had it blown up to the largest size possible and used a poster frame I had on hand. The picture wasn't quite big enough for the frame, so I painted the back of the frame with the same navy paint I used for the accent wall. I love it. Seriously LOVE it! And it makes me so happy that someone we love took it!

 I am planning to change out a couple of the storage bins on the shelf for different colors to add to the multi-coloredness of the room.

Now, the amazing tiki awning.

I am so so proud of my amazing husband for figuring out how to do this all on his own. I told him what I wanted, showed him a tiny picture on my phone in the middle of Lowe's, and he executed it perfectly! We used pvc pipe to make the frame. He has some pics of the process that we may post later. Once done, he spray painted it brown and cut out a big piece of cardboard, which he also spray painted. I hot glued the cardboard to the frame and then hot glued the tiki grass over the top. (The tiki grass is actually made from two luau table skirts I bought on Getting the grass to look right was a bit tricky. We had to use a couple of layers and had to trim up the bottom so it wouldn't look like a mullet. It's still a bit shaggy, but I'm okay with a little imperfection, so we called it good.

I also bought a bunch of beach balls on Amazon and am still trying to figure out a clever way to utilize those. And of course, I can't forget the guitar! JP has a ukelele from Hawaii that will be on display once we get some shelves hung.

LJ loves playing in his new room! He's been reluctant to test out the bed, but I think that's more because bed = sleep and we're not into that right now.

Thanks for checking out the pictures!

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Aunt is Dino-mite!

LJ's Auntie Som made him an awesome dinosaur sweatshirt! She also sent along a cute little activity from the Sunday School curriculum she created that included fishing poles made from sticks and glittery blue ribbons for waves. She's a Crafty McCrafterson that way!

The day after we got the package in the mail, I hustled LJ outside to catch the early morning clouds. (We're up reeeeaaaal early 'round this parts.) Here's my little dinosaur wearing his auntie's creation and carrying his new "fishing pole."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Signs of Life

The calendar and the weather forecast may not reflect it, but spring is here!

 Signs of new life can be seen everywhere.

On a recent trip home in fields of yellow wildflowers...
(If those are actually weeds, don't tell me.)

By the parking lot of my old high school in vast orchards blooming with white blossoms...

In the local feed store, where new baby chicks are on sale...

In the neighbor's yard, where a flock (herd?) of goats appeared this week...

Even in our own little family...


Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Vine & Branches

JP writes:

I haven't blogged in a while because I have been working really, really hard on the vineyard. I had the misconceived notion that the hard work on a vineyard took place during the spring, summer and fall months. Well that idea came from a city slicker who didn't have a clue as to how hard a farmer has to work during the winter months. Especially when you are on a slim budget like we are and you can't pay for people to do everything for you. I had to beg, bribe and borrow to get people to come and help us prune our vineyard. It was a task that I am glad that I did, but hope I can have the funds next year to get it done by professionals. It was kind of like running a marathon and you had to keep pushing yourself harder and harder to try and finish.

Now that prunning for the season is complete, we get the fun task of cleaning up the branches and weed wacking the weeds between the vines. We then rake the debris into the middle of the rows and haul it to the back of the property where I will hopefully figure out a way to get rid of it.

Much like learning the pruning process, we struggled to figure out the most efficient way to haul the debris to the back of the property. Our friend Carolynne (a former farmer) came up with a good strategy. Her idea was to put the branches on a tarp and pull it to the end of the row. This strategy was working out pretty well until we realized that there were so many branches (due to us having 3 years of vine growth because it was a foreclosure and we just bought it in August) that it became very heavy and hard to pull even with two people pulling the tarp. So I added to her idea and tied up the tarp to the tractor hitch, so now my John Deere is doing the hard work for us.

When LJ and I were hanging out this morning we decided to walk by our vineyard debris pile and he thought it was some sort of fort that he could play in.

I feel like going into some deep thoughts here. In pruning my vineyard and picking up the branches I have a new appreciation for John 15: 1-8 "The Vine & the Branches". One of the final moments Jesus had with his disciples is when he took them to a vineyard. Side note: It could of been a Petite Sirah vineyard because I read a stat that 90% of the grapes grown in Israel are Duroc. Petite Sirah is descendant of the Duroc grape. Ok, back to the deep thought: Jesus wanted to do this learning lesson actually in the place that he was going to teach them one of the final parables of his ministry on earth.

Jesus said, 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener." Being a new farmer I have realized how hard this life is day in and day out and if God is the gardener, he must be a workaholic. ;-)

Jesus goes on and says,
2 "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." I have learned through this whole pruning process that every vine can only support so much growth before it starts to effect the fruit of the vine. Last harvest my grapes were smaller than normal and the vineyard only yielded about half its capacity because the vines were not pruned the winter before. The vines were supporting too many branches that were growing down and sideways that, as a result, bore no fruit and took up to much energy of the vine. The vine only has so much energy and life it can give, so when it is supporting branches that are not supporting the growth of grapes then they are hurting the vine production and profitability of the vine. The branches that could bear fruit were from the shoots growing up. However in winter, when the grape vines are dormant, a farmer leaves two bud notches from last year's growth and clips the rest of the vine. When this happens the vine becomes more fruitful during the next harvest because the grapes get bigger, resulting in a more profitble vine and harvest. 

4 "Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." I find it interesting that Jesus used this analogy because the farmer is the one who has to do the hard work. The farmer in this parable is God and He knows how to get the most out of each vine and each branch. Sometimes in life we don't know why God opens doors and shuts doors or gives us things and then takes them away. But Jesus is telling you and me not to worry because if we remain in relationship with the vine then it ultimately will make you more blessed then you are now. I also learned by pruning my vineyard and reading this parable that it is not by your hard work that makes things happen, because God is the farmer not us. In addition, we cannot receive all that God wants to bless us with if we do not remain connected to the "vine" which is Jesus. Or receive God's blessing when we are trying to be the farmer of our lives and not let Him be the farmer and make the decisions needed to make our lives more blessed in the future.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." I want to encourage our blog readers with this:  I believe that God wants to bless you and me, but to receive this blessing there is a secret formula He is sharing with us. To be blessed with everything He has in store for our lives we need to constantly live in relationship with the "vine" (Jesus) and let the "gardener" (God) be the decision maker .

As a banker I talk with many people who are going through hard times. Heck, Beck and I have been struggling with things ourselves. I have to find hope in this verse that there are doors that are not opening and there are things getting taken away. But if I just do the simple thing of remaining in the love of the "Vine" then I can assure myself and my family that the "Gardener" is going bless our family and take care of our every need.

-Thanks for reading another blog by JP on This Vine Life.