This is David & Susan Sifford's journal of what we pray is our sojourn of life (Hebrews 11:8-10) along the narrow way (Matt 7:14), even the old paths (Jeremiah 6:16), submitting to the Bible as a light unto both (Psalms 119:105). It is our prayer that these documented moments in our earthly time benefit whom God might choose to edify, but ultimately that God glorifies Himself through them.

Month: December 2012

David’s Digest: The Treasure of an Unpleasing Land

When new people are thinking about moving here, I often talk to them about the difficulties in the carnal man with living closely-knit to other folks, but also the great spiritual benefits that can come from that, if not viewed carnally. I also mentioned it at the end of my Living in the Darkness blog post.

For example, if I think I find some inconsistencies in my human Bible teacher’s life (who teaches the truth, desires to be conformed to Christ’s image, and where I’ve seen such transformations over the years), or I’m given a simple command (like, put that down and come help me, even if I think what I’m doing is important at the moment) by an authority over me (even more so if I’ve willingly submitted myself to that authority), or I feel my favors to someone have been abused by that person, etc., assuming my perception of the situation is correct (which I need to very carefully and prayerfully consider, perhaps over an extended period of time, that it might not be), I believe God is affording me a gracious opportunity for His graces to be shown forth in

  • humility
  • meekness
  • forbearance and mercifulness (regardless of percentage of fault, and especially in light of Christ’s infinite forbearance and mercy toward me, my sin, my human frailties, my inconsistencies, and my countless abuses of His infinite graces and mercies)
  • forgivingness (my forgiving of others, even asking God to forgive them — see Gill on Matt 6:12)
  • obedience
  • faithfulness
  • selflessness, servanthood and sacrifice (especially in light of Christ’s [God Almighty!] infinite condescension to become a selfless servant, even to be sacrificed by His creation!)
  • waiting on the Lord (sometimes for years and years and years) in prayer (which, while God works it out, either in me or the other person or both, I’ve helped keep unity and not brought schism)
  • belief in God’s sovereign hand
  • etc., etc., etc., etc.

But if I find the opposite in myself coming forth, I believe God is yet again affording me a gracious opportunity to see a lack of His spiritual graces in my life; and then, if I desire to be molded in His image, I can bring these wants before Him in repentance and supplication for these graces. Either way, God is glorified in what appears to be a troubling situation by His work in a sinful worm and wretch like me; and while my carnal man fights it and causes me grief, it is mercifully to my benefit that my heart is tried whether I see any evidence of an interest in Christ or not, so I can give diligence to make my calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10) and work out my own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), which if my heart is not proved, I may lack the Spirit’s fruit and not know it, and then never truly seek it. (As an aside, because of the difficulties with my carnal man and complete lack of spiritual ability in myself, and that God often uses trials and afflictions to teach us, I’ve also recently started to ask God for His help as He’s helping me. 🙂 ) These opportunities are a means of God’s graces.

You just don’t get these kinds of God-given opportunities, certainly alone, but also in the loose-knit “Christianity” of today. There, you can hide; here, you cannot, which, as I’m pointing out, I believe can be a good thing, in bringing about purity and holiness, in individuals and as a group. (As a result too, with examples like the ones from above, if my heart is in order, God might grant me, in His timing, a proper and appropriate opportunity for me to speak with the other person about my perceived issues with him, and I might then find that God has been working on the other person’s heart as well!)

God also uses other means to bestow His graces, in His Word, with teaching, by His ordinances, in singing, in trials and afflictions (as I mentioned), by prayer, etc. — we need to seek Him in these and all of His means, and then we’ll find (Luke 11:9). Part of obtaining God’s graces comes from asking for them, with repentance; and again, you don’t ask for them if you don’t know you need them.

In a world of barrenness, if I find a field with a bearing Tree in it, although the field may be full of weeds, and rocks and crevices and difficulties to get to the Tree, which all seem to make the field worthless, it is my private (personal) judgment that it is worth giving up everything (including my sin and carnal reactions/views, carnal/temporal gains and reputation, etc.) to buy that field to obtain the Treasure that is in it.

It is our prayer here that Christ mold us in His image, and we thank Him for the graces, mercies and grace-filled opportunities He has granted us. May we never slumber as He knocks; may we diligently seek Him and His graces; may we see things as He sees them; like a green olive tree, may we trust in His mercies for ever and wait patiently on His name in the house of God; may we be His light, shining on a hill (a rolling one here in central Texas 🙂 ) for as long here as He wills; may we never do anything to offend Him so as to have the candlestick removed or the face of His presence hidden; and may He see us through, in His faith, all the way of our “progress,” even through Jordan, to the end. Amen.

— David

Providence’s Perpetuation Provisions: Last Chick Roundup

When we last left our broody hens and chick-hatchings, we had just had another Austrolorp hen go broody, wondering if perhaps the Lord was not done in granting chicks this year.

And sure enough, we moved her into one of the little chicken pen areas in the piano room, and she hatched out somewhere around eight or so — Group 16!

I didn’t get pictures when they were younger and with their mama, and they have since moved on to our chicken pen area (which is our staging area for younger birds before going to the main chicken tractor), but here are a couple of them as they are now:

New Chicks 2012 Sixteenth Hatching in Pen Area
New Chicks 2012 Sixteenth Hatching in Pen Area Again

And a video:

We did have yet another hen start to go broody recently, but because of the difficulties in trying to bring chicks through the winter, we just pulled any eggs she was sitting on, and she eventually lost interest. I don’t like to do that, but we’ve had to try to take care of young chicks when it’s really cold, it it takes quite a bit of effort (you can see a little of what we had to do during the pretty bad cold-snap we had a couple of years ago.

Anyway, once again we are very thankful to the Lord for granting these provisions of the chicks throughout the year, and pray they are used for His glory and the benefit of His people.

— David

Garden – Spring 2012 – Update III

Our Texas gardens seem to be like snowflakes, there are none alike. This year we planted what we thought were to be large tomatoes, but they came out the size of cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are like candy to me, so they were a treat nevertheless. And we also planted an heirloom tomato plant that didn’t produce one solitary tomato until mid-Fall. Go figure. But it almost seemed fitting because Dave and I both are late bloomers ourselves and always root for the underdog, so we were excited when we started seeing little yellow blooms starts to form 🙂 So I thought I’d give an end of the garden “Where Are They Now” update:

God blessed us with an abundance of these cherry tomatoes. We enjoyed them on our salads and in pasta and other dishes all through the summer:

Spring Garden 2012 Tomatoes in a Bowl

I decided to make some lacto-fermented salsa with some of the tomatoes by adding chopped onions, garlic and green peppers, and then adding a salt brine (1 1/2 Tbsp. salt to 1 pint water) to let it ferment for a few days. This stuff is great with tortilla chips or on salads!

Spring Garden 2012 Lacto-Fermented Tomatoes

One of the ladies in the community, Shannon, came over one day to help me chop up some tomatoes in preparation for making my first ever batch of tomato sauce. Here the tomatoes are being rinsed and readied to be chopped:

Spring Garden 2012 Tomatoes Ready to Process into Tomato Sauce

Shannon took an “action” shot of the tomatoes being cut up. Can’t you just feel the excitement in the air?! (By the way, her young boys did a great job of helping pick up construction debris in our new house that day as you can see by the garbage bags in the background – thanks, boys!)

Spring Garden 2012 Cutting Tomatoes for Tomato Sauce

Here are the tomatoes all cut up (thanks again, Shannon!) and ready to be made into tomato sauce:

Spring Garden 2012 Cut and Ready to be Simmered into Tomato Sauce

I added other ingredients per the recipe below, and here it is simmering and being prepped to pour into hot jars in order to be pressure-canned:

Spring Garden 2012 Tomatoes Simmering to Become Tomato Sauce

I think the yield was three and a half quarts; but by the time I took this picture, we had already used half our yield! It is pretty tasty stuff!

Spring Garden 2012 Tomato Sauce

As you may know by now, I am all about keeping things simple. So I looked for a really simple recipe. I think next time I may keep it even more simple by adding only garlic and onion, but this recipe is great too. It is titled “Italian Tomato Sauce” in the Ball “Blue Book of Preserving”:


Yield: About 7 pints or 3 quarts

  • 4 quarts chopped (about 24 large), seeded, peeled, cored tomatoes (uh, yeah, right – I only cored and chopped mine and threw the rest in as-is)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper (about 1/4 medium)
  • 1 Tbsp. Basil
  • 1 Tbsp. Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. Minced Parsley
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional – I didn’t use it)

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking (cook longer if you want to cook out some of the juices and make a thicker, less watery, sauce). Ladle the hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints 15 minutes, quarts 20 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure (depending on altitude) in a steam pressure canner. SIMPLE!!

This past Lord’s Day we made the decision to pull the remainder of the garden due to a long, hard freeze that was expected to hit on Monday night (we’ve been covering one of the black-eyed pea beds and the tomatoes with blankets up to this point, for light freezes, which has worked very well; but we covered other black-eyed peas beds with a tarp, and that didn’t work so well). As you can see, the tomatoes were going strong into December:

Spring Garden 2012 Cherry Tomatoes on the Vine in December

The growth seemed to flourish after the temperatures dropped a bit when Fall kicked in:

Spring Garden 2012 Tomato Plants in December

This is the lone, late-blooming, heirloom plant (we had originally planted two, way back in the Spring):

Spring Garden 2012 Heirloom Tomato Plant with Tomatoes

It’s too bad we had to stop it in its prime because it put out some beauties:

Spring Garden 2012 Heirloom Tomatoes

You wouldn’t know it from this picture, but the width of the basket is about 17 inches! Thank the Lord for the tomato bounty! I plan to ripen most of these little pretties in our summer kitchen and make more salsa and tomato sauce. Also, our neighbor made a delicious mock apple pie with green tomatoes (don’t judge until you taste!) for our community Thanksgiving meal, and I was very impressed. So if she’s willing to share the recipe, I plan to make a pie with some of our green tomatoes and share the recipe and process with you all, Lord willing:

Spring Garden 2012 Basket of December Tomatoes

Lastly, but certainly not least….ly (? 🙂 ) We picked the last of our black-eyed peas dried pods. (You can learn more about our other black-eyed peas experience when we picked from the Bunker’s field of black-eyed peas.) We plan to extract the little dried peas from the pods and save them for re-planting in a future garden, or rehydrating them for soups, stews, etc.:

Spring Garden 2012 Basket of Dried Black-Eyed Peas

Even continuing this year on the heels of one of the worst droughts in Texas history last year, we are very thankful to God, our Provider, for granting us water and a bountiful garden enabling us to eat and preserve vegetables for the future. May He receive all the glory.


Goat Milking Stand

When we first started milking our goats, some folks from town graciously gave us a milking stand, and it has served us very well. It has started to really show the effects of time and wear and many repairs, and because when we breed our goats during the winter, we split them into two generations, and so Sue didn’t have to walk goats from one pen to another just for milking, I thought I’d put together another one for her, using the original as a spec.

Thankfully, I was able to scrounge up all of the wood necessary for it, which was nice.

I started with the base, which is basically 2 feet by 4 feet. It might be interesting to make it 3 inches less wide so the cross pieces would be 2 feet instead of 27 inches, but we have quite a few leftover pieces of OSB that were cut out from the 2 foot by 4 foot pony wall windows of the house, so one of those is what I used. The 11 inch legs on the original were something of a weak point, so I tried to bolster them by using 2×4 instead of 2×2, and used screws on both sides (which, to allow for easier replacement, on the long side I did from the inside so the eventually uprights wouldn’t be attached over/covering the leg screws) and the top:

Goat Milking Stand Under Side of Base
Goat Milking Stand Top Side of Base

I then cut out basically all of the parts I would need:

Goat Milking Stand Parts List

The uprights I used an 8 foot 2×6 cut in half to 4 feet, and then ripped at about 1 1/2 inches. Another weak point in the original design was where these uprights attach to the base, so I thought I would shape them at the bottom to hopefully be more sturdy and have more material to which to attach to the base. (UPDATE: please see our goat milking stand update blog post for a continuing problem with this and an enhancement I added.) Note that for many of the screws I drilled pilot holes, especially when dealing with the thinner pieces or older wood:

Goat Milking Stand Uprights

And then I added some cross braces, a 2×4 placed 10 inches from the platform and a ripped in half 2×4 around 3 inches from the top (although I measured from the 2×4 cross brace because the uprights weren’t exactly the same length):

Goat Milking Stand First Cross Braces

And the neck holders, one obviously being only attached at the bottom cross piece (which is the top cross piece because the stand is upside down). These were 3 feet long, ripped from a piece of one of the pieces cut out of the 2×6, a little less than 1 1/2 inches wide so that the moving one would slide nicely between two cross pieces without binding or being too loose. Their outer edges are 9 inches from the outside edge of the cross piece:

Goat Milking Stand Neck Holders

And then the last top cross piece and the shelf holders, which were from a 10 inch 2×4 cut diagonally. Those I put the top level with the top of the bottom 2×4 cross piece:

Goat Milking Stand Back Cross Piece and Feeder Shelf Braces

Here is the shelf. I used a 2×10 for this:

Goat Milking Stand Feeder Shelf

And here are some extra screws I put in to hopefully more securely attach the shelf:

Goat Milking Stand Feeder Shelf Extra Screws

And here it is!

Goat Milking Stand Complete

We had some u-shaped brackets laying around, which just happened to fit perfectly over the two neck holder pieces, and so we’re using that to hold the neck pieces closed when the goat’s neck is in it:

Goat Milking Stand Neck Holders Latch

And here the milking stand is in action! We hope to find and start using something more sturdy for the feed holder instead of plastic buckets, like an aluminum pot or the like from a thrift store — something to withstand the weather and the goats a little better 🙂 :

Goat Milking Stand in Actions

We’re grateful to the Lord for the original stand from those generous town folks, for the left-over wood to be able to use for this, and for the opportunity to have it completed. We are continually thankful for God’s provisions generally and for the healthy goat milk.

— David