Month: August 2014

The Joy of Home Coffee Roasting

Coffee.  It is one of the subjects I enjoy discussing way past the tolerance level of many other people.  In fact, I chuckle inside when I hear someone order a Carmel Macchiato at Charbucks Starbucks and refer to themselves as a coffee snob.  I digress.  Let me open the doors of coffee in my world to you.

Several years ago my wife and I went on a vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii.  As many of you know, Kona Coffee is thought to be some of the best coffee in the world, and it is grown right there on the Big Island.  While we were there, we took a tour of Greenwell Farms, something I highly recommend.  I learned more about coffee that day than I thought there was to learn, but the biggest lesson came at the end of the tour.  Our guide walked us back to the area where the tour started, and we stood by a table with several coffee pots.  He invited us to try some of Greenwell Farms coffee, which I was glad to do.  As I poured my cup and began to put sugar and cream in it, our guide said, “Wait!  Don’t ruin my coffee with that stuff!”  I explained to him that I liked my coffee like candy, and with a horrified look he shared with me that this was simply because I had never had good coffee before.  Being the good guest, I reluctantly listened to him, knowing full well I would have to doctor it up if I wanted to drink it.  LOW AND BEHOLD, I was wrong!

Honestly, friends, this was an eye-opening moment for me.  I had drank coffee much of my life, and my entire adult life.  I cannot recall ever enjoying black coffee prior to this, but WOW, that was a good cup of coffee!  Naturally, I thought that this must be because Kona coffee is so good.  That indeed is partially true, but that is not the only reason, nor is it the biggest reason.  Our guide explained to me that the two reasons most people do not like black coffee is because it is often burnt, hiding the natural flavor of the coffee bean, and because it is stale.  He then told us that contrary to popular believe, the freshness of coffee has little to do with when it was ground, but it has much more to do with when it was roasted, and if it was roasted more than two weeks prior to the date you are drinking it, it is likely stale.

The stale part intrigued me, but not nearly as much as the burnt part.  After all, a friend of mine who is a self-proclaimed coffee snob would tell me that good coffee is always very dark.  He would also rave about the quality of Charbucks.  Oops.  I did it again.  Starbucks.  What I began to find is that he, like many others, has been brainwashed by clever marketing.  You see, a good light roast of coffee is diffult to do, and almost impossible in a large commercial environment like the nationwide coffee chains.  Therefore, they market the “quality” of a dark roast.  It is really all they can do.  Before you interrupt me and remind me of the Blonde Roast, you should know that this is not a light roast.  It is just lighter than their other roasts.  I could go on about this, and perhaps I will in a later post, but for now I will leave it at this: the wonder of a good, light roast coffee is something most people have yet to experience.

After this trip to Hawaii, I was determined to find good coffee that I could afford.  The truth be told, I love Greenwell Farms product.  In fact, I encourage you to try it – you won’t regret it.  I will never forget that first cup of good coffee, but it is not something I can afford to drink daily.  It is expensive to purchase, and expensive to ship to the mainland USA.

After much exploring, I found that there was NOTHING on the shelves at the store that fit what I was looking for.  Coffee labeled as Kona Coffee was just a shadow of the real thing, containing only a small percentage of Kona Coffee.  Finally, I decided that there may be a market for good, fresh-roasted coffee, so I began looking into a coffee roasting business.  While looking into this, I found that it is practical for a person like me to home roast my coffee.  I found a good supplier, Sweet Maria’s, and ordered my first batch.

I decided to take the rustic approach, and looking back I am not sure this was the best approach, but I still use it today.  I roast my coffee using an iron pan over a charcoal fire.  Check it out:







Once again, after experimenting with home roasting, my life was forever changed.  Though I found the light roast was the most important part of good coffee, I have since found that stale coffee does indeed taste different, and I do my best to roast at least every three weeks, though that is sometimes more of a commitment than I can follow through on.  Even so, it is much more fresh than what I am going to get elsewhere.  I have also since discovered how much of a variety there is in coffee.  For example, Kona is great coffee, as is South American coffee, particularly Brazilian.  While I enjoy all fresh roasted coffee, there are some that aren’t as good to me.  For example, I am not as big of a fan of Sumatran coffee, or quite frankly Kenyan coffee, though both are entirely palatable.  It is simply amazing to taste the differences in these beans, especially when roasted at a nice light roast.

After reading all this, you may be inclined to start home roasting your own coffee, and I tell you with mixed feelings to be careful.  On the one hand, it is an experience I would never trade.  I have had my eyes opened to something I consider to be a real pleasure in my life, but on the other, I sincerely feel I should warn you that once you open this door, you cannot shut it again.  What I mean is this: you will NEVER view office coffee, Charbucks coffee, or most any other chain coffee in the same light again.  In fact, it may do as it has done for me, and you may find those coffees unpalateable.  Yes, I can still drink them, but it sure isn’t with any sort of satisfaction.  All it does is make me long for a good cup of home roasted coffee again.

The Chicken Chronicles

Since the ladies have started laying, I have been tracking the number and the size of the eggs.  It is nice to see both numbers increase a little each week, even though I sure don’t notice it during the week.  Candidly, I am often threatening them that if they don’t provide fresh eggs I will be eating fresh meat.  🙂  Yes, it is nothing but an empty threat, but maybe it will inspire the ladies to lay a little more.

I'm trying to encourage the ladies by showing them their good work.

I’m trying to encourage the ladies by showing them their good work.

We ended up with five eggs each day for three days in a row, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and both Friday and Saturday the Easter Eggers outlayed the Rhode Island Reds, which is unusual.  In fact, it may be the first time this has happened.  The Easter Eggers consistently lay smaller eggs though, but they are getting larger.

Look at the above picture again.  Notice how one of the “brown” eggs is kind of pink?  I am wondering if that is an Easter Egger’s egg.  Supposedly they can lay pink eggs.  Perhaps I have one doing just that.  I’ll have to pay attention and see if I can figure out who is laying those lighter eggs.

I am curious to see how the egg production begins to fall off and when this happens.  I think I mentioned this last week too.  Chickens are typically light sensitive when it comes to laying eggs, though I understand the Rhode Island Reds will lay throughout the winter.  We have decided we aren’t going to supplement with lights, as I think God made them to need that period of rest, which I will give them.

My wife is normally the one that lets the ladies out to “stretch their wings”.  She is beginning to convince me that the birds are not dumb animals as many say.  Most of the time she can say something like, “Time to go back in.” over and over, and the chickens start heading for the chicken run.  Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few stubborn birds, but believe it or not, there are times they all just go in.

I have also noticed the ladies are not staying together when we let them out as much.  In fact, they all go their own separate ways.  I do like seeing that they are scratching in the garden more, and I am seeing them get plenty of bugs.  The more the merrier!  I have explained to them that this is one way they should pay their rent.  😀

Tribute to Bob Warren

Yesterday this world lost a great man, Bob Warren, but let there be no doubt, he left this life and walked into Paradise to spend eternity.

I was not fortunate enough to have known Bob Warren as well as others may have.  I never attended a camp at The Hill.  I was never fortunate enough to sit and study the Bible with him.  I was blessed, however, with multiple opportunities to talk with him about many things as we stood on the sidelines of a football practice or a football game.

Bob, and his wife Kim, chose to homeschool their son, Ben, just as Charity and I have homeschooled our boys.  Charity met Kim a number of times through the years at homeschool events, and always felt she had the sweetest spirit about her.  We only met Bob sometime later when their son, Ben, wanted to play football.  Football is a tough sport for homeschoolers.  It is expensive, requires a lot of practice, and it requires a lot of boys.  Even so, Bob didn’t let that discourage him.  He helped Ben pursue that dream, and through a lot of hard work and coordination, The West Kentucky Warriors were formed.

Despite being a professional basketball player earlier in his life, Bob didn’t overexert his presence at the practices or the games, but he made sure that the team always had a spiritual focus, giving the glory to God for everything.  I not only saw that though, I saw a terrific dad supporting his son in pursuit of a dream.

Last year Ben graduated high school, and perhaps one of the last pictures I have that Bob was included in was the picture of Bob, Kim, and Ben being honored on the field during the last game.

Bob, Kim, and Ben Warren at Ben's last football game.

Bob, Kim, and Ben Warren at Ben’s last football game.

I will never forget Bob Warren, and I know that I am only one of many, many others who believe the same.  He has left behind a legacy that is powerful, a legacy that was centered on Christ, family, and loving others.  I am truly better off for being privileged to know him.

My heart goes out to Kim and to Ben.  Bob was taken all too early for any of us, but there is no doubt where he is right now.  May the Lord comfort Kim and Ben during this time, and may they be comforted knowing that Bob was welcomed into eternity with the Master saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant!

Happenings Around the Homestead

One of my favorite things to do, usually, is walk through the garden in the morning.  I love the cool of the morning, the dew on the ground, and the quiet.  It is a real source of enjoyment for me.  However, I do NOT like walking through the garden at 7:00 AM when the humidity is high and the temperature is already warm.  Unfortunately, that happens sometimes, and Saturday was no exception.  I knew I had some work to do in the garden, and I was so hoping for a cool morning, but alas, that was not to be.

The tomatoes seem to be on their last leg now.  The plants are looking quite haggard, and the tomatoes themselves are not even as appealing.  In fact, the chickens were able to dine on several of them today.

The corn is getting most of my attention this year, and today I harvested several ears I hope pop well, as I would love to get their coloration worked prominently into the popcorn seed.  Let me show you four of them:

Landrace Popcorn

Look at this beautiful white kernel licked with flame-like colors!

Landrace Popcorn

More of the flame-licked colors on this cob, and I love the variety of colors.

Landrace Popcorn

I am confident this one has some glass-gem corn mixed in with it, and I like it. I love the greens – they are a rare treat in my seed stock.

Landrace Popcorn

More flame-licked colors. This one looks a lot like some seed stock I saved last year, which I am sure is what has pollinated all of these. I sure hope this pops well.

Look at that last picture a little closer.  See the red kernel just to the right of the middle?  See the spots?  I wonder what they are.  If you look at the one below it, the purple one, it has the same spots.  Even so, these kernels are things of beauty!

Believe it or not, we have a winter squash plant that is growing like gangbusters!  I doubt anything will come from it, as it has yet to set fruit, but it was a late starter, and it happens to be the only winter squash I have that survived the squash bugs and squash vine borers.  I sure would love to get some seed stock from it.

Sweet potatoes are a new crop for me, and even though I grew some last year, I cannot remember for the life of me when to harvest them.  I think it may be after the first frost, but I need to look it up.  I am so hopeful that I have a good crop of sweet potatoes.  I grew purple and white sweet potatoes, which taste very similar, though the purple ones are generally more dry.  Even so, I enjoy them.

Usually at this time of year I am not yet thinking about next year, but it sure is on my mind this year.  I think it is because I didn’t do such a good job getting the garden out on time this year, and I am hoping to redeem myself a little next year.  🙂  It won’t be long until I start planning.  Until then, I have a few other projects I am working on which I will be sharing here, including a homemade smoker and a homemade dehydrator.

Four Leadership Lessons From Nehemiah

I came across an interesting blog post the other day titled, “Four Leadership Lessons From Nehemiah“.

I would like to add a disclaimer before I get into the meat of this post.  I have not checked out the church from whose blog I read this.  While I normally do that, I didn’t feel these points were impacted by theology.  

  1.  Leadership Is Providential – While I agree with the Patterson’s point on this, I struggle with it too.  I believe God ordains each of us for our work, but by simply saying leadership is providential, it makes it seem as if leadership doesn’t fall into our lap, God hasn’t ordained it.  Sometimes God provides us the skills and the calling, and sometimes I believe God expects us to develop those skills.  I think this goes along with point number three.
  2. Leadership is Spiritual Hard Work – Perhaps a better way to say this is “Leadership should be spiritual hard work.”  In fact, I am not sure the discussion behind this point supported the point as well as I expected it to, though the point still holds true.  Good, godly leaders are not just leading, but they are supporting those they lead in prayer.  If it were only that, it would be simple and easy.  Good godly leaders also consider those they are leading to be more than employees or “followers”.  In fact, just like the Bible tells us in Romans 12:15, we should, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”  You should consider those you lead, especially those you have direct influence over, to be a significant part of your life.
  3. Leaders Use Projects to Build People – This is a powerful point that I would not have gotten on my own reading Nehemiah.  All too often in today’s world, this principle is thought of backwards.  People are thought of as a means to complete a project, but that is not how it should be.  We can see other examples in the Bible of this as well, the one most coming to mind is the disciples.  The interesting truth behind this, which isn’t stated, is that by using projects to build people, the people you lead will then complete the projects better.  By placing the growth of those you lead above the projects they are assigned to, you ultimately end up with better, stronger people doing better, stronger work.  This can be a slipperly slope though, as one can fall into the trap of attempting to grow people so that projects will be done better, which ultimately fails as the leader’s heart is not really on their people.
  4. Leaders Persevere – I loved the quote from Mark Dever in this section of the article.  Mark states, “A godly leader keeps leading.”  What else is there?  If God has put leading others on your heart, then leading is what you do.  Trials come.  Challenges happen.  Projects are completed.  Jobs are finished.  Even so, leaders keep leading.

One of my long-term goals is to be the best leader possible, and these four principles are certainly ones to keep in mind, especially #2 and #3.  It seems to me that the greatest task a leader has is using their influence as a leader to build up the people they lead.  As I see it, the foundation of this is both the second and third points from above.

The Chicken Chronicles

While I was out of town last week, I began to get really excited.  It seemed the egg production was increasing after two days in a row with five eggs each.  Since then it has been relatively quiet though.  I think we had three eggs on Friday, one on Saturday, two on Sunday, and two on Monday.

Speaking of eggs, we have had two oddities lately.  The first is a spotted egg.  Apparently one of the Rhode Island Reds is feeling some pressure to match the Easter Eggers for their unique eggs.  Look what she laid:

Spotted Egg

Spotted Egg

That has not been our only oddity though.  We have also had a shell-less egg laid:

Shell-less Egg

Shell-less Egg


Shell-less Egg

Shell-less Egg

Saturday I was sure we were going to have several eggs.  I was out roasting coffee and heard that egg laying clucking going on all morning.  Come to find out, I think it was a first time layer.  When we checked for eggs later, there was only one there, and it was smaller than what we’ve been getting.

The ladies sure are getting brave.  When we let them out to run in the yard, they used to all stay together, but now they just go off on their own exploring.  That is fine unless we see a neighbor dog coming around.  Even so, we have yet to have an issue.  Yesterday, though, the chickens nearly went to the front yard, which is the furthest I have seen them go.  Brave ladies they are!

I am using the deep litter method in the coop, and yesterday I was noticing how well this seems to be coming along.  Basically by keeping a deep layer of litter in the coop, the smell is minimal and fantastic garden compost is being created.  Charity and I have neither one smelled the coop much.  Charity’s nose is ultra sensitive, so I think that is a good sign.  I think after the leaves fall for the year, I will clean out the coop and move this fantasic compost to one of the garden beds for next year, and restock the coop for the winter with fresh litter (oak leaves).

I am curiously awaiting the slow down of egg production for the year.  I don’t know when that happens for my area yet, though there are some reports that it slows down when the sunlight becomes less than 14 hours a day.  We are already less than that, so it may be soon.  Perhaps that is why they seem to be laying slower than I had hoped right now.  Even so, the Rhode Island Reds are supposedly winter layers.  Hopefully that means we will see a steady flow of eggs from those four ladies all winter long.

Happenings Around the Homestead

It is Sunday morning as I write this, and there is the most terrific claps of thunder going on outside.  Though I enjoy being able to go walk in the garden as soon as the sun is up, a great thunderstorm is very high on my list.  Oh, I just checked, the rain is falling hard now too – wonderful!  My garden will so appreciate it!

Speaking of the garden, I decided to harvest as much of my popcorn and flour corn as I could yesterday.  I don’t have very large patches of each, so I need to do what I can to prevent spoilage, and though neither was totally ready to be picked, I was afraid this rain might cause some mold or mildew issues.  Here is the harvest so far:

Corn Harvest

First Corn Harvest of 2014

I was not surprised, but yet a little disappointed to see the cross-pollination in the Cherokee White Flour Corn.  Some of the kernels are purple and yellow, which is no doubt from my popcorn.  I was frustrated to find them both maturing at the same time, which happened to be at a point I was unable to bag them to prevent the cross over.  With the Cherokee White Flour Corn, this is almost irrelevant.  I can easily see what is crossed, and I will eliminate that from my seed stock — wait, that is not true.  I will save some of the purple kernels for a special project next year — to see if I can get a purple flour corn, but that will be very carefully monitored.

The challenge I have is the popcorn though.  With it being much shorter than the Cherokee White Flour Corn, I am confident there is much cross pollination there, which may mean I lose most of my popcorn for seed from this year.  That sure is frustrating, but I will chalk it up to learning.

I did harvest one ear of Cherokee Gourdseed Corn as well, but it was definitely not ready.  The ear had evidently been hit by something and was broken off though, so I felt it was better to go ahead and harvest it.  It’s now drying with the rest of them.

Regarding the Gourdseed Corn – these are the oddest cobs and kernels!  The husks are so tightly wrapped on the cobs that it is a real chore to pull them off, though I suspect that will change some with time.  The kernels look like old man teeth though!  Even so, it is supposed to be a great flour corn as well.  I don’t have a good picture of one yet, but I will be sure to share one later.

I harvested the largest crop of the year of tomatoes yesterday, which happened to be about half a bushel.  Most all of them were Chocolate Stripe Tomatoes, which have become one of my favorite for taste — right up there with Cherokee Purple Tomatoes.  They also make a beautiful tomato juice.  Look at this beautiful basketful!

Chocolate Stripe Tomatoes

Chocolate Stripe Tomatoes

One other interesting tomato I have this year is from seeds saved from a tomato purchased at Whole Foods.  The tomato was advertised as a Cocoa Tomato, a variety I cannot find anywhere, so I presume it is a marketing name only.  Anyhow, it was a great tasting tomato with great color.  Those I am growing are very similar in size and color, but they are much less juicy than the one I purchased, which suits me fine.  These tomatoes will make excellent tomato sauce tomatoes or drying tomatoes, which is a nice addition to the garden.

Speaking of all this seed, I am an avid collecter of seeds with history.  Even though I landrace some vegetables, I also do what I can to preserve heritage crops too, and I would really appreciate leads to any rare or known Native American plant seeds, especially those with ties to the Chickasaw or Choctaw Indian tribes.  Most lists, such as this list of Seed Varieties for Native American Gardens have limited selection, though I know that is due to limited information.

I so enjoy the fall weather, but as the days start to shorten, a part of me gets a little sad knowing the gardening for the year is slowing down.  There is still plenty of time left, but in another two months it will be time for the ground to rest for a while and for me to start planning for next year.

Who Deserves All the Praise and Glory?

Who deserves all the praise and glory?  God, right?  Do we deserve any of it?  NO!  Why is it that we feel we do then?  Why do we always seek to claim praise and glory?  Aside from our sinful nature, it is because we are comparing ourselves to other humans, and in that instant we might have done something in our lives better than another human.

Now, let me ask: Have you ever felt really good about how something turned out, only to later find you totally messed it up?  What happened?  All too often we aren’t good enough to understand what good is.  It reminded me of these three examples:

  • A friend of mine had a son who was the best in the state of Kentucky at one point for his discipline of martial arts.  He told us once that when someone gets to black belt, they begin to realize that they have only started to understand karate.  What?  Black belts are experts, right?  NO!  They are people who finally have enough knowledge to see how little they know.
  • When I first took up photography, I really thought I had a natural eye.  I thought that even though I wasn’t as good as the great photographers, I could compete.  As a means of seeking affirmation of my greatness, I posted some pictures on a photography forum full of professionals.  The resounding sound I heard was something like, “You aren’t even to the point we can help you yet.  You need to learn the basics.”  This infuriated me.  After all, I could plainly see that I was taking high-quality shots!  It is only now, years and years later, that I see how poor my work was then.
  • I have played chess much of my life, but it was only after I was an adult that I really took it up.  A friend of mine at that time, a guy I worked with, purchased a dedicated handheld chess machine.  We would play this on the highest level, because obviously we were that good.  Of course, the machine would beat us terribly!  The funny thing was we thought the machine was cheating!  Why?  Because we weren’t even good enough to understand how the machine was checkmating us!  It was only sometime later that we realized how foolish we had been.

So how does this apply to us?  If we think we have done something good or praiseworthy, it is only because we have yet to gain the maturity to understand how far from good we are.  There is only one example of good – that is God.  If we think we have done something good, it is because we are only comparing ourselves to other broken, imperfect humans.  Once we gain that maturity, it is then that we see the only one who deserves our praise and glory is God, and we would be best if we humbly avoided praise for our good deeds, for they are nothing in comparison to what He did for us.

Playing the Blues

This may come to a surprise to those who know me: I have a real appreciation for blues music.  The truth is, I like all kinds of music, from classical to country, pop to rap, blues to jazz, and everything inbetween.  However, blues is a music style that I really enjoy, and I have long had a fascination with blues harmonica.  In fact, about ten years ago I began teaching myself blues harmonica, and though I was never very good, I sure did enjoy it.  I have recently decided to pick this hobby back up, and am in the midst of teaching myself once again.

Lee Oskar Harmonica

Lee Oskar Harmonica

When I first started playing harmonica, I did considerable research into the instrument, and I finally decided Lee Oskar was the best brand for what I wanted.  The thing I liked most is that their instruments are easily repairable.  I still laugh a little at this decision, because I have yet to have a need to repair one, but it is nice to know they can be repaired if necessary.

You may be wondering what blues harmonica sounds like.  I thought you might ask this, so I have rounded up a few links for you to check out:

On of the links above comes from, which happens to be the site I am using for my lessons. So far I am liking his style better than the books and CDs I listened to years ago when I first picked up a harmonica with the intent to learn it. Now to simply follow through with this and learn to play something more than simple tunes. 🙂

The Chicken Chronicles, August 11, 2014

I am traveling for work today, and I will probably schedule this post to go live sometime while I am in the air.  It is Sunday morning as I write this, and I am thinking ahead to my week, realizing I am not going to be able to check each day while I am gone for eggs.  My wife doesn’t quite get the same excitement from this that I do, but I will have to bribe her to be sure and let me know the egg update each day while I am gone.  🙂

Sometime during the day on Saturday, perhaps after I collected the eggs for the day, I decided I probably needed to weigh the eggs to help me better determine how they are growing in size.  I had a total of seven uneaten eggs in the kitchen from our birds, so I took some weights.  Here are the results:

Rhode Island Red Eggs: Average of 1.47 oz (4.4 oz/3 eggs)

Easter Egger Eggs: Average of 1.35 oz (5.4 oz/4 eggs)

Store Bought Large Egg: 2.2 oz

So, as you can see, right now our eggs are less than half the weight of a store bought large egg.  This is a little smaller than I had estimated, but nothing that worries me.  I understand that their eggs will get larger over time.

The disappointment so far has been the number of eggs that have been laid.  The best I can figure, we have a minimum of four birds laying: two Easter Eggers and two Rhode Island Reds.  I come to this conclusion because there have been days where two eggs from each type of bird have been in the nesting boxes.  There could be more than this, but this is the minimum.  On average, we are getting two eggs a day now.  I had wrongly assumed that they would become egg-laying machines as soon as they started laying, but it seems their bodies need to gear up for this some too.

I had to chuckle some on Saturday when I went down to check the eggs.  I always peek in the window first to see if there is a bird in the nesting box, and there was.  There were also two others peeking their heads up through the chicken ladder hole in the floor as if they needed to see what was going on.  😀  Blondie is still the only one I can for sure identify that has been laying eggs.



I haven’t seen another Easter Egger yet, though there has to be one, and I can’t tell the Rhode Island Reds apart.

I have also been intrigued by the ladies’ choice of food.  I thought chickens would eat anything, but ours have not been that way so far.  Even so, there are some scraps they absolutely love.  One of those being tomatoes, and the other being watermelon.  Last night when I went down to check on the ladies I noticed they had cleaned a watermelon rind down to the thinnest green sliver.  It almost looked like leather it was so thin.  They also love most other kitchen scraps, but they aren’t fond of peppers and onions at all, that I can tell.  I suppose this is good, since I can’t imagine this has a good impact on egg taste.