Blueberry Picking


posted by Sarah in Family Fun, Farm & Garden

Today was the perfect day for five of us kids to go pick blueberries at a farm in SC. The weather forecast was calling for rain in the afternoon, so we managed to get ourselves out the door and drive over an hour to the “middle of nowhere”, before the rain came. :-)

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It was a lovely gray morning – cool but not rainy… no bugs and no sweat! Fun times together on the farm!

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We picked 7 gallons – some to eat and some to freeze :-)

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Many hands make light work! What special memories we made racing each other to fill those buckets to the brim… laughing and talking and comparing the sizes of our biggest berries.


We were able to purchased some cantaloupes from the farm stand as well. We love fresh farm produce! It will be such a blessing to have our own fruits in the years to come, as our fruit trees continue to grow and bear more fruit.

_MG_9283 _MG_9302The finished work… 13 big bags of blueberries to freeze. Happiness! :-)

I posted more pictures here.

Fresh Garden Veggies~


posted by Stelzl Family in Farm & Garden


We’re enjoying an abundance of fresh garden veggies this year! It’s a HUGE blessing to be able to harvest our own fresh lettuce, cucumbers, summer squash, as well as berries and herbs. The Lord is good!

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Last year was our first year mulch gardening. We noticed quite a bit of improvement from our rocky red clay soil conditions, although the garden was not as successful as we had hoped. This year we have been blessed with so much already! The mulch has had a while to break down and help further improve our garden. We’re so excited about the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, and look forward to future years when we can enjoy the fruits of our orchard!



We are learning a lot this year about planting – how much, where, and when. We had 200 heads of lettuce ready to be picked from within 2 weeks of each other… but not enough mouths to eat it all fast enough ;-) … so since the garden is now filled with small lettuce “bushes” and rather bitter leaves, we are noting that next year we should plant smaller sections in overlapping time periods throughout the spring. So far, everything else has been wonderful though!


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Mmm… few things compare to the taste of fresh garden vegetables! And there’s certainly a huge difference between the ones from our garden, and those that can be purchased at the grocery store! :-)

Celebrating a Milestone


posted by Stelzl Family in Friends & Fellowship, Trips & Travels

This past weekend we had the privilege of celebrating a special milestone with our friends, the Staddons! Their son David graduated from high school, and friends and family gathered for a time of sharing, special music (David is very musical, playing both piano and violin very well!), fellowship, and food.

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(Thanks to James Staddon for taking this picture on his iPhone, despite poor lighting and other conditions)


Since the graduation was on Saturday, we arrived Friday evening which made for a fun time of visiting and meeting the Staddons’ other relatives who were in town. We arrived just in time for dinner, a bon-fire and smore’s (with a drizzle of rain and lots of mud!), and a fun game of “ultimate frisbee” with a football. :-)

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(James Staddon snapped this with his iPhone) :-)


On Saturday we helped the Staddons prepare the house and get things ready for the graduation. Furniture was moved from kitchen and living room to accommodate 60+ people! David, along with some of his family members (and our David), prepared special music to play throughout the graduation – both violin and piano.



We were so blessed to see so many dear friends again! Robert and Kendalyn were there with their little girls Sauntina and Merilee. Many of the Staddons’ relatives were there, some having traveled long distances for the occasion, and others more local.



David shared some short and long term goals, and expressed his gratitude to family and friends for their investment in his life. Mr. and Mrs. Staddon shared about their journey of teaching/home education, and James (David’s brother) encouraged him to read and meditate on the Word of God.

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Many hands made light work! Cheerful helpers worked together to make the day a huge success. There was fellowship, laughter, and games. Fun times!

Later that evening, rather the following morning ;-) sometime after 12 AM, Wilkes Teams 12 (Josh & Lisa), and 3 (Matthew & Amanda) arrived from VA. While we waited for their arrival, we played games like Dutch Blitz, and Kings and Peasants… and ate cookies.

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Other highlights from the week included…

– Playing games outside… ping-pong, there ain’t no bears out tonight, football, and volleyball.

– staying up *way* past our bedtimes, laughing and making fun memories together

– Cooking delicious meals, fellowshipping around the table, and washing dishes together

– A fun surprise for David Staddon after midnight, including a huge “hailstorm” of candy falling from the ceiling fans in the living room (those who had already gone to bed thought it was hail ;-) ).

– Special music for Sunday service by various members of the different families

– 40 people staying at the Staddons home (and overnight)… oh what fun it was!!!

– Keeping each other’s names straight… there were 3 Sarahs and 4 Davids  ;-)

– Holding babies – there were at least 5 “littles” at any one time, to play with or hold…

– Meeting new families – there were so many people at the graduation, and visiting throughout the weekend. It was a huge blessing to meet the Staddons’ different relatives, and other friends, and also to visit with our dear friends that we don’t see very often.


Thank you Staddons for having us! We so enjoyed our time in WV, fellowshipping and making memories. We can’t wait until next time, and look forward to future visits!!! :-) :-)



posted by Stelzl Family in Family News, Friends & Fellowship

It’s hard to surprise our mom. And when someone suggested that we throw a surprise birthday party for her this year, we all knew it would be no small task to put every detail into place.

Some very dear friends of ours {whom we basically consider family ;-) } graciously agreed to host the party in their home! And so the list-making and secret planning/preparation began!


There were guests to invite…a menu to plan and food to prepare. We had to make sugared nuts, mix up side dishes and salad dressings, bake desserts, and do the grocery shopping – all behind her back. There were times when she’d be on her way home, and we were looking for a place to let something cool that was coming out of the oven. One morning we used all the lemons making a pie and had to creatively come up with a solution to get some from under the bed upstairs into the bowl in the kitchen,  while she was standing there preparing vitamins!


One date night we had just about 2 hours to make 3 pies, feed the kids and clean up dinner, run to Walmart for groceries, take *all* the food, chairs, and other supplies to the home of our friends, and get the house in perfect order {customary to date night!}… while they were away on their date!


There were things missing from the house that we just knew she’d go looking for… and things present that ought to have given away our secret. There were little voices asking questions, and people whispering, and someone even asked when the party was, while she was sitting in plain sight working on the computer.


And she was still completely surprised. So surprised. Oh joy!




We did a “make a mountain buffet” which is one of her favorites, and easy for a crowd. It’s basically a salad with *tons* of different toppings! And there were sides and desserts.



Some friends of ours {Bethany is the daughter, pictured above} graciously offered to pick up our grandmother on their way to the party… and so we were able to come to the party as a family, as though just dropping by to visit some relatives in town {who were visiting our host family}.


Just about all of our relatives on my dad’s side were there. Uncles, Aunts, cousins {and their spouses}. So fun!





We did it! We actually did it!


48 candles for 48 years :-)






Many months of planning… weeks of running over different lists, comparing ideas, problem solving, thinking about the possible problems that might arise… doing everything in secret and confiding in the few who knew the plan. Oh what fun! It was a joy to bless our mom with an early birthday surprise. And we’re grateful for all who made it possible {and came to celebrate with us!}, so that we could show her our love through a very special evening with family and friends. :-)

Sarah posted more pictures here.

Nashville ATI Homeschool Conference


posted by Stelzl Family in Student Expeditions, Trips & Travels

Our family had the privilege of attending the Nashville ATI Homeschool Conference again this year! The theme of this year’s conference was “Looking Unto Jesus” and included powerful messages on prayer, trials, hearing the voice of God, reconciliation in relationships, making an impact on the people in this world, trusting God for financial provision, and much more!

Hannah led a group of COMMIT girls, and Sarah and Bethany led a team of Pre-Embassy girls together. The rest of the family attended main and student sessions.

The following pictures were taken by the Nashville Family Conference Photography Team (with the exception of the second one, taken by Bethany).


Sarah and Bethany’s Pre-Embassy team. Sarah also wrote a post on her blog, and posted some pictures.



The Alert Cadet program.


James Staddon with some of his students – the photography workshop attendees.

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Children’s Institute and Alert Cadets.

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David was the only Stelzl to participate in the choir this year. The Friday evening presentation is always a very special time, when each of the different programs shares what they’ve learned over the week.

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We listened to many wonderful speakers throughout the week, including Tom Harmon, David Barton, David Gibbs, The Duggars, The Bates, and Otto Koning – to name a few.

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The Pre-Embassy group during a large session. Here the girls are watching a fun skit, and learning/reviewing Bible verses and songs to share on Friday evening during the presentation.



Some of the Alert men did their opening night presentation at the beginning of the week.


This is opening night of the conference. Mr. Gibbs shared a powerful message on prayer, and then asked us to move toward the front for a time of prayer.


Hannah with one of her COMMIT girls.

IMG_4358One of the COMMIT teams.

052714-JAS_1389-2The Nashville ATI Homeschool Conference, 2014.

We can’t wait until next year! :-)

Sarah posted more pictures from the week here.