Thursday, August 31, 2006

Work Continues on the Farmhouse

Nathaniel, Luke, Jacob and Miguel continued working on the outside of the farmhouse today. They extended a walkway out to the lane and built steps from the new patio up to the main door.

From the house to the lane.


From the patio to the front step.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

An Active Fireplace

It's only August 27, and the first fire has been built for the impending cooler season. A wet, rainy and cold day made the fire especially inviting. Dad and Mom enjoyed their hot lunch by the fireplace while the children were at the fair. By the time we returned from the fair, we were all ready for a dose of fireplace relaxation.

Dad enjoys a warm fire on August 27th.

Of Ribbons, Awards and Kindnesses

The 161st Dutchess County Fair went out with a rainy downpour today, but not without providing many happy memories for many children on Livestock Hill. Rebecca did a beautiful job in the showmanship competition, gracefully exhibiting Clarence's heifer, Tammy. She won second place in her division. The judge said that no one was happier to be showing a cow than Rebecca. Hannah also showed Tammy for showmanship. She placed in the middle of her division, against some stiff competition.

Our exciting win of the year was a first place ribbon for the dairy herdsman contest. This award was especially attributed to Mom who made a descriptive poster that detailed the agricultural future hopes for Bentley Farm and the events of "The Miracle of Life" birthing tent.

Many kindnesses were shown to our family throughout the fair. Of special note was the breakfast that Melody and Lenny treated the family to on Saturday morning.

Melody and Lenny took the family to breakfast at Blondie's.

So happy! Rebecca and Tammy.

In between shows, Nate and Justin (from Princeton) rapidly rub Tammy with baby powder.

Hannah watches the judge.

Friday, August 25, 2006

No Business Like Show Business

That is, of course, the cow showing business at the Dutchess County Fair. It is not a very lucrative business, but its rewards are in long-lasting memories of healthy competition in clean white clothes and with freshly shaven cows. The Ayrshire classes have been small this year so we have been walking away from the open class shows with the red and blue ribbons. Caleb, Rebecca, Jacob, Hannah, Luke and Nathaniel have all done the showing this year.

Caleb leads his heifer, Chickadee.

Jacob assists Caleb in the show ring.

All the summer morning training is paying off - Rebecca shows her heifer.

Prayers for the Churched Generation

In our desire for the tradition, staidness and authority that the liturgical and high church tend to represent, may we not forsake listening to the voice of Jesus and acknowledging him as the one and only head of the universal and catholic church. May we fear and tremble at his word and love his name.

In our fervency for mission, may we not believe that the only viable mission field is the one across a sea. May we recognize that often the discipline and obedience needed of a missionary is cultivated in the homeland.

In the comfort that the homeland provides, may we not forget that the Christian gospel calls us to suffer – not only in the “martyrdom” sense of the word, but in the daily deaths where our wills and ambitions war against the voice of our God and obedience truly hurts. May we seek to live a life of self-discipline wherein we find the key to spiritual growth.

In our pursuit of pleasure and comfort, let us think upon the parable of Dives, the rich man, and the beggar, Lazarus.

In the fast pace of our lives may we remember to account for the reality that our decisions matter and have eternal consequences that definitively affect the lives of other people and our eternal destiny.

In a time where we hold ideas loosely, let us pray for commitment to truth – to the unpopular and steadfast in place of the new and transient.

When words are so carelessly dispensed, may we be wary of speaking idle phrases and banter of meaningless content. Let us respect words as the vehicle of power (God spoke and there was) and truth (the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth).

In a culture of materialism, may we be skeptical of the power of monetary and material accumulation to distract us from the call to follow Jesus. May the words of Jesus to the rich young ruler be considered seriously in our time where many of us would walk away with the ruler, grieved upon hearing those clear words, “Sell all of your possessions and follow.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Isaac Returns to Cornell

Isaac and I drove to Ithaca yesterday to settle Isaac in for his senior year of college. He is rooming with a friend from Cornell Christian Fellowship, Eric, who also comes from a farming background (notice the John Deere pillowcase in the picture). Their room is tiny. You might think that it was cozy until you looked out of the window and realized that the room sits on a construction site that tends toward the noisy and dusty side. At least they have the consolation that they will be moving into the new construction come January.

Isaac hopes to get a job at the vet school this year. He has plans for a challenging senior year including two semesters of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry.

I spent the evening in Binghamton with Katherine and Justin in their newly furnished apartment. I was so glad to witness the great joy and contentment that they have been given in their new marriage.

Isaac and Eric enjoying each other's company (while on the phone).

Monday, August 21, 2006

Jonathon and Sarah Edwards

I was encouraged by the life of Sarah Edwards as I read a short biography about her marriage to Jonathon today. A biographer (Dodds) of the Edwards couple wrote:

Sarah's way with their children did more for [Jonathon] Edwards than shield him from hullabbaoo while he studied. The family gave him incarnate foundation for his ethic.... The last Sunday [Edwards] stood in the Northampton pulpit as pastor of the church he said this word for his people:

"Every family ought to be... a little church, consecrated to Christ and wholly influenced and governed by His rules. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means are like to prove ineffectual."

Preparations for the Dutchess County Fair

The heifers have been relocated to their week-long home at the Dutchess County Fair. Half of the family left for the fair at 3:45 this morning to shave the heifers and ready them for the show ring. We brought four heifers to the fair this year. Typically we have brought only Ayrshires but with the Bentley-Middlevale farms currently merged, we decided to bring two Holsteins in addition to two Ayrshires. Time will tell how the animals perform in the show ring.

Post Script: The BFG was not the only one with this story. The Poughkeepsie Journal (front page, August 22) also featured Hannah and Caleb and their preparations/relaxation at the fair. Click here for the link.

Caleb relaxes with the cows in the background. The job of the "sitter" is to pick up manure pies.

Our poster display advertising the "Miracle of Life" birthing tent.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

To the Adirondacks Once Again

Apparently the Adirondacks are the destination of choice for the Angell family this summer. Jacob and Dad just enjoyed the weekend together in the Lake George region of the Adirondacks. They hiked Black Mountain, camped by Lake George, played miniature golf and went swimming. Their most memorable event? It would probably have to be the renting of the Wave Rider. Jacob said that he loved every second of riding the waves. Dad said that if he had to ride the machine for one more hour he would have ended up in the emergency room.

The campsite by Lake George.

Jacob sits beaming on the Wave Rider.

Dad enjoys the view from Black Mountain.

New York City Meets Bentley

Our dinner guests tonight, George and Liz, hail from New York City. They recently purchased a beautiful and historic home in our area and come up for the weekends. We shared an evening of stories, laughter and song. George even gave the John Deere B a spin.

Dad rides on the hitch to coach George through the driving experience.

Three sisters in the milk barn.


The Canadian geese are flying south.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Good Reasons to Drive Old Cars

- The insurance rates are low
- You can leave the car unlocked because no one imagines that there is
anything worthwhile on the inside
- If your car gets keyed, you will most likely not notice
- If someone hits you, you don't have to spend all of the insurance money
on restoring the car to perfect condition
- If you wait just a few more years, your car may be a valuable antique
- The open windows, when the air conditioner breaks down, give your hair
a wind-blown convertible look
- You can use the money you save from buying an old car to pay off your
mortgage and have more kids
- No one can lock your window shut when you sit in the backseat
- You can be sure that your friends like you for your personality, not for
your possessions
- You don't have to worry that the car alarm sounding in the parking lot is
from your car
- You actually know how to read a paper map
- You keep the car mechanics in business
- You can pick up farmers and not worry if the car assumes the smell of
- You can slam doors when you feel like it
- You can take the car in the fields and backwoods and not care if it gets
- You can still play all of your old cassette tapes
- The pace of your car give you more time to enjoy the scenery by the
- You can store more important things in your garage
- The noises from your car always herald your arrival
- You get to meet nice strangers that help you when your car breaks down
- And if you hadn't read this, you might have less opportunity to become

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Back to the Adirondacks

Nate, Hannah and I journeyed back to the Adirondacks again today, this time picking up two of Nate's friends, Justin and Jay, from Princeton and voyaging to Mount Ampersand. It was a good climb to the top, moderately difficult, but very energizing nonetheless. The top is completely devoid of trees, so the view at the top is tremendous. Justin decided that the Adirondack mountains provided a good backdrop for some photo stunts.

Victory! We arrived at the top of Mount Ampersand.

Justin engineered some pretty wild pictures.

This puddle was the canvas for Justin's modern art attempt.

We decided to go into the town of Lake Placid after we reached the bottom of the mountain. I did some quick shopping at the fast prompting of the men and then we went for a swim in the cool waters of Lake Placid.

As we headed out of town we chanced to see a sign on the Olympic Center that said, "5:15 Special Announcement/Welcome Governor Pataki". Looking at our watches and seeing that it was 5:13, we parked the car and ran with our wet clothes and half-tied shoes up the street following the governor and his entourage. We stood on the steps to the Olympic Center while Pataki discussed his memorable vacations to the Adirondacks and announced the dedication of millions of dollars of funding to the Lake Placid and White Face mountain region.

The governor appears in the Adirondacks.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Quiet Weekend

It was a restful weekend at Bentley. We were honored with the visit of Mr. Melvin Brown from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota. He is a friend of my grandparents and happened to be visiting in the New York City area. He kindly arranged to pay us a visit. Mr. Brown has a tremendous voice and sang us some old gospel hits like, "I'll Fly Away" and "I am on the Battlefield For My Lord."

Mr. Brown and Dad walk up into the high fields.

Isaac's friend, Patrick, stopped by the farm for a little while as well. Isaac and Patrick worked on trimming Pat's goats for the upcoming fair. Patrick gave us some of his logging expertise and helped us to cut down some big dead trees in our side yard.

Meanwhile, the garden continued to grow and we began to eat our first harvest of sweet corn.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Lake George

Trip and Sally welcomed us to Tea Island on Lake George for the fifth annual Angell summer vacation. A short narrative of our time is told with the pictures below.

Dad enjoyed kayaking (pictured) and rowing at Lake George.

Mom and Sally conversed on Tea Island's shore.

Mom and Dad left early. We (children) spent the night. We got to see a beautiful fireworks display.

While waiting for the fireworks we did some campfire singing. The fireworks served as the campfire. The evening was very cool and refreshing.

The firework display was impressive and lasted about 15 minutes. It is a weekly event.

Trip and I did a 50-minute swim across Lake George the next morning. Becca and Caleb started swimming with us but decided to ride with Nate in the canoe.

After sleeping on Tea Island, the eight of us headed north to the Silver Bay area.

And last, but not least, we took a quick field trip to Fort Ticonderoga.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Changing George Bush (or Me)

I believe that the difficulty of change is well established. At least change for the good demands considerable effort and very often seems impossible and out of reach. Multitudes of supporting examples come to mind, but suffice the historical and present-day conflict in the Middle East as instance enough.

It is certainly not a novel thought to say that change begins on a personal level and, for better or worse, often ends there. I say "for better" because growth on the personal level is often challenging enough for a lifetime and quite an honorable pursuit. I say "for worse" because the most influential saints lived such a personally changed life that the only possible outcome was change on a societal level.

A person who practices change on a personal level as the beginning of every other desired change is quite easily distinguished by their characteristic mental peace.

However, when the blame chain is engaged, people tend toward many levels of emotional turmoil, frustration and irrational anger. For instance, it is a revealing exercise to listen to how often our visible politicians are blamed for the pain we see in the world around us. Frustrated by George Bush's need for change, we tend to see the only viable response as angered and frustrated complaint.

Yet for all of the times that we suggest that George Bush should change, do we perchance to look at our own lives and suggest that the external problems in the world have internal roots within?

A classic story of G.K. Chesterton speaks well of one who realized this need. Chesterton was once asked by a reporter for the Times to respond to the question, “What is wrong with the world?” His short reply of “I am. Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton” prompts a deeper consideration of the reality of evil at work in the world.

Dostoevsky suggests a good remedy to this grave tendency to pass off the need to change to everyone but ourselves. In The Brothers Karamazov he writes:

No one can judge a criminal, until he recognizes that he is just such a criminal as the man standing before him, and that he perhaps is more than all men to blame for that crime. When he understands that, he will be able to be a judge. Though that sounds absurd, it is true. If I had been righteous myself, perhaps there would have been no criminal standing before me. If you can take upon yourself the crime of the criminal your heart is judging, take it at once, suffer for him yourself, and let him go without reproach. And even if the law itself makes you his judge, act in the same spirit as far as possible, for he will go away and condemn himself more bitterly than you have done.

Let not the sin of men confound you in your doings. Fear not that it will wear away your work and hinder its being accomplished. Do not say: “Sin is mighty, wickedness is mighty, evil environment is mighty, and we are lonely and helpless. Evil environment is wearing us away and hindering our good work from being done.” Fly from that dejection! There is only one means of salvation. Make yourself responsible for all men’s sins. As soon as you sincerely make yourself responsible for everything and for all men, you will see at once that you have found salvation. On the other hand, by throwing your indolence and impotence on others you will end by sharing the pride of Satan and murmuring against GodI believe that the difficulty of change is well established. At least change for the good demands considerable effort and very often seems impossible and out of reach. Multitudes of supporting examples come to mind, but suffice the historical and present-day conflict in the Middle East as instance enough.

The Sacrament of the Present Moment

Mom's brother, Mark, inspired this post with a recent letter and an enclosed excerpt from The Sacrament of the Present Moment. Mark writes in his letter:

When we're doing diapers or weeding under a hot sun, we need to remember Jacob's words from Genesis 28: "Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not."

Jean-Pierre de Caussade, an eighteenth century Jesuit priest, is the author of The Sacrament of the Present Moment. In it he writes:

"All creatures live by the hand of God. The senses can only grasp the work of man, but faith sees the work of divine action in everything....Everything that happens to us, in us, and through us, embraces and conceals God's divine but veiled purpose, so that we are always being taken by surprise and never recognize it until it has been accomplished. If we could pierce that veil and if we were vigilant and attentive, God would unceasingly reveal himself to us and we would rejoice in his works and in all that happens to us. We would say to everything: 'It is the Lord!'"

And so I am reminded that in all of the small tasks of the day, God would pierce that veil and manifest his presence in the midst of daily living. Today was a day when His presence was clearly seen - the morning was beautiful, the humid air that had blanketed the Hudson Valley was replaced by a cool wind, the hay that we were unloading into the barn was fresh-smelling, golden and, oh, so good. The beauty spoke of God's nearness.

But other days, it is the toil and the sweat and the encompassing worries that seem to consume the mind. It is in these times that we ask for faith to see the sacrament of the moment. We pray, as Dad did tonight, "Thank you for the struggles of life and for the family that supports and encourages us as we go through them." The gift of Christian life together is that we can help one another to see through that veiled purpose into the eternal love and presence of God.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Celebration of Young Marriage

I emceed another "Newlywed Game" tonight. I was excited because it was the first time that I could actually use the terms "husband" and "wife" as normally we play the game at the pre-marriage stage but tonight's couple (we knew the young man from childhood) is actually well into their second year of marriage. Tonight's highlight came with the question, "What would your wife say is her least favorite piece of furniture?" Both Dad and Paul answered, "The bed." Both Mom and Rachel replied, "The computer desk." This coincidence was one of many connections made through the night. A good time was had by all as evidenced through the laughter that encompassed the evening.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Another Farm Birthday Party

Henk's daughter, Tutsia, turned seven today. We celebrated with a lot of chocolate on the farm lawn. My past three weeks of travel made me particularly excited to attend the small event. I have officially decided that Bentley Farm is the most beautiful place in the entire country. (Not that I am biased.)

Tutsia, Binnie, Jessi and Rebecca all play with Tutsia's new present - a magnetic horse farm.

No magnetic horse boards for Caleb! The parachute ball is more fun for him.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Work Continues to Beautify the Farmhouse

A lot of the boys have been dilligently working to help build a new platform deck for the farmhouse. The farmhouse is looking very transformed these days. The outside was recently painted a very rich and distinguished gray color. The contrast with the white windows gives a very classy look. In addition, a mud room was built in the house, the two sides of the farmhouse were joined together to create one home, the garage was taken down, the floors were redone, the inside walls have been painted, the house was jacked up and the foundation was rebuilt, the basement was paved, new windows were installed and central air was added. But the real test for the farmhouse always comes in the winter - will it stay warm?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Summer Days

Caleb in his straw hat.
Bentley keeping cool under the haywagon.
Jacob driving the John Deere B.
Stacking our neighbor's hay...
Layer... layer... layer.