God-Reliance vs Self-Reliance

“Self-reliance” has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? The term evokes a range of images in people: the prepper capable of surviving 30 years after societal meltdown, back-to-the-land hippies, or the pioneer living in a sod house in the 1800s. At Novel Farm, we admire the values of determination, hard-work and independence. We like to think we possess many of these same values, but there are times when we like to indulge in “self-reliant” aspirations (i.e. where our careers will be 10 years from now, expanding our garden to encompass a whole acre, etc.). Let’s be completely honest, if we truly relied only on ourselves then we’d be a complete failure. Our life experiences thus far have shown us we are totally and completely “God-reliant.”

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Our interest in homesteading has made our reliance on God even more apparent. One of the most obvious examples is weather. Last summer proved to be tough on many gardens across the United States, but our area experienced a wide array of ups and downs.

The growing season started out great! Our tomato plants were loaded with beautiful green tomatoes at the end of June, just waiting for the sun to come and give them a nice suntan. Unfortunately, the sun never seemed to shine bright enough. Many of our tomatoes rotted on the vine before they were able to fully ripen. The term tragedy might be a bit of a stretch, but that’s what it felt like at the time since we had already let our dreams of the future harvest shape our expectations.

“All creatures look to you to give them food at the proper time.” Psalm 104:27

July brought the promise of ripe tomatoes, but despite our hopes the heavens opened up and blessed us with copious amounts of rain. Our garden was flooded not once, but twice! Many folks in our area lost their entire gardens due to flooding. Thankfully, the wood chips we use in our Back to Eden garden absorbed the water quickly and we continued to reap a harvest. A diminished harvest, but a harvest nonetheless.

Flooded Garden

Flooded Barn

“I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit.” Leviticus 26:4

Our maple syrup harvest has also suffered the last couple of years. For the sap to run well enough to collect a harvest, the temperature has to fall below freezing at night, and rise to about 40 degrees during the day. Unfortunately, we have gone from freezing winter to lukewarm spring the last few years without that sweet spot the sap needs to run well.

“The trees of the Lord are full of sap, The cedars of Lebanon which He planted.” Psalm 104:16

We started breeding rabbits last year with overall great success. However, we did have a litter not make it. One day, we noticed the mom had uncovered the baby rabbits in the nest and they were not moving. We have no idea what caused her to stop taking care of them, but that’s the way it is. We provided shelter, food, water – everything rabbits need to survive. Yet they didn’t survive. 

“For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” Ecclesiastes 3:19-20

One of the most amazing aspects of God’s creation are seeds. We received a brown package a couple weeks ago with our seeds from Baker Creek. It’s crazy to imagine the small envelopes contained inside its bubble wrapped interior hold all the seeds we’ll use to fill our garden with produce. A seed is such a small, seemingly insignificant thing, but it’s packed with potential!


So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Luke 17:6

Our reliance on God goes far beyond homesteading. We rely on Him for everything. It’s great to make plans, but whether or not they come to fruition is up to God. We have a huge responsibility in life. We all have our role to play. However, we are totally incapable on our own. There’s only so much we can do apart from God. We must do our part, then we can expect God to His part.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?… 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:25-26, 33


Homemade Maple Syrup

In late winter, 2011, we attended a small festival called Maple Syrup Time at a little park in Lake County in northwest Indiana. We were living in Crown Point at the time and emerging from a long winter in our tiny apartment. It was a pleasant, sunny day. We were just looking for a fun afternoon, not a new hobby, but that is exactly what we found. It turns out, tapping trees and making maple syrup is a pretty simple task!

The process starts with maple trees. Lucky for us, we have four large silver maple trees in our front yard at Novel Farm. A tree needs to be at least 10 inches in diameter before tapping. If the tree is over 18 inches in diameter, it can hold 2 taps, and a tree measuring about 28 inches or larger can manage 3 taps. Try spacing out your taps evenly. In our experience, taps on the south side of the tree collect the most syrup.

The next thing you need is cooperative weather. The temperature needs to reach about 40℉ during the day, and drop below 32℉ at night. Where we are in Indiana, this typically occurs in February and early March. However, the past few years have been as stubborn as an old mule. Regardless, November and December are good times to start collecting gallon milk jugs, if that is what you are going to use to collect your sap. You can buy a bit fancier supplies, but we are frugal in our maple syrup endeavors and honestly don’t notice much of a difference.

Maple Syrup Tutorial

When you are prepared and the weather is right, use a 7/16” drill bit and drill at least 1.5” into the tree at a slight upward angle. Then lightly tap a ½” steel pipe nipple (you can buy these from any hardware store), into the tree with a hammer. If you are worried about the pipe nipple being too large for the 7/16” hole, I can assure you it works. The smaller hole guarantees a tight fit for the pipe nipple. Sap can leak out below the pipe nipple if the fit is not tight enough. If you are still worried, just widen the hole a bit at the entry point. Continue reading

Seed Catalogs

2016 Seed Selections

As we mentioned in the last post, the winter months are the perfect time to dream of next year’s garden. We’ve been poring over seed catalogs for the last few months and finally managed to narrow down our seed selections for this year!

Our garden is over 1,200 square feet and growing. There’s simply never enough time or space to grow everything we initially write down. Growing up, I always assumed a tomato was a tomato and corn was corn. Who knew there are hundreds of different varieties?! In fact, when we bought seeds for our first garden, we were so confused because we could not find “green beans” anywhere! Contender, Kentucky Wonder, Fortex, those all sounded nice, but we just wanted green beans. Yeah, unfortunately, that’s a true story.

Well, we finally figured out not all green beans are created equal, and tomatoes are about as diverse as people. Almost all of the vegetables we grow are heirlooms, which basically means they are all-natural. Any vegetables grown by our grandparents were most certainly heirlooms. Below are listed all of the varieties we plan to grow this year. Most varieties are from Baker’s Creek unless there’s an asterisk (*) next to the seed name. Continue reading

Winter Garden Work

We finally got our first real snow of the season recently and it is beautiful. My husband is especially excited about all the nitrogen fixation occurring in our garden. When we started gardening, I was surprised to find out snow was actually a huge benefit to gardeners. We use plenty of chicken and rabbit manure to enrich our soil over the winter months, but it’s always nice to know God is helping us in other ways too! 

Red Barn in Winter

Preparing a Back to Eden garden for winter takes some work, but it saves us time and effort in the long run. One of the main principles of any organic garden is not adding any artificial fertilizers to the soil. However, gardening is not a zero sum game. Vegetables take nutrients from the soil and these nutrients need to be replenished in order to continue producing crops. Continue reading