Smoky Mountain Backpacking Trip


posted by Stelzl Family in Family Fun, Trips & Travels

November 14th – November 16th, 2014

Smoky Mountains, North Carolina


At the trail head… starting off into the wilderness for 3 days. The field behind us was full of elk {they had moved farther down by the time we took this picture}.


The first evening… FREEZING and trying to keep warm around a toasty fire. The temperature was a high of 30’s that day.


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Food always tastes better around a campfire in the mountains…especially roasted hot dogs and toasted buns. Grateful to have remembered the ketchup this time 😉 !

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Keeping warm… warm fires were a highlight of this trip. :-)

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Approaching camp on the second day.




Morning sleepy faces – just for the record, the adorable little guy on the left *never* did run out of energy. 😉



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Playing in the river… we did that for a while on the second afternoon after arriving at camp a little early.

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Historical site along the trail… this house depicts the lives of early settlers. Not far from the trail head there were a church and school house built in the early 1900’s, also 2 cemeteries that we passed.



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Heading home. :-)

Family Fun Day


posted by Sarah in Family Fun, Friends & Fellowship

Each Fall the families in our church like to get together and camp out for a weekend (at a local state park), or have a day of fellowship, food, and fun! This year we had the privilege of hosting the family fun day at our home.

Many hands (and thoughtful minds) worked together to organize games, relay races, contests, and fun activities for the families to enjoy together. Prizes were picked out for the winning teams (teams were organized by families), and meals arranged. It’s a tradition to have ‘walking tacos’ at lunch – basically a bag (or plate) of corn chips with all the mexican toppings. We ordered pizza for dinner, and made a bonfire with s’mores at dark.

Fun times! Here are a few pictures from the day. :-)


The first of many clues…

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Blindfolded obstacle course – fathers led their families around obstacles, by calling out directions (and others were allowed to yell all sorts of confusing directions to try and steer them off course).


Keeping time


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The marshmallow race – grab your marshmallow, put it on a spoon. Run to the other end of the yard and back (without dropping it!). If you drop it, pick it up and turn around three times without dropping it. You are racing other members of the opposing teams and want to get your team through the fastest!

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Write 4 words – the goal is for the person at the back of each team line to pass up 4 words (one letter at a time) – and the person at the front of each team has to correctly collect the letters as they are passed up (written on backs, no talking allowed!) and write them down. The team with the most correct words wins.



Friends :-)

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The balloon race…tie on your balloon(s) (a certain number of balloons required per team) and run across the yard and back without popping it or losing it (both happened by the way!). In the end you have to pop it so your next team member can run. Get your team through the fastest. If you lose your balloon or pop it, you have to get another one on and finish!


Move the mulch pile relay race!! Oh yeah! Families work together to get 6 big buckets of mulch collected and raced down to the garden (a designated trail and dumping place were marked out in the garden).


The H family discusses who will shovel, run the buckets, etc. Only 2 people allowed to shovel at once. Teamwork here guys!!


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Go teams go!!

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Volcano game… move your family across the yard with pieces of cardboard. No one can ever step off the cardboard pieces, and you have to always have a free piece of cardboard to keep the team making progress! Cardboard pieces are lost by letting go (which means you can choose to run the entire yard and earn one back) or stepping off.

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Sweet brothers at play.



Family/team legged race!



IMG_2563What a blast! We so enjoyed our time as families – fellowshipping, participating in the different activities, and eating fun foods together. Thank you to all the sweet families who came to spend the day and make our time extra special! We are looking forward to next year’s event (whatever that may be)! :-)

P.S. Thanks to Hannah for *all* these fun pictures! :-)

Family Connection


posted by Stelzl Family in Exhortation & Encouragement, Ministry Opportunities

Earlier this week we had the wonderful opportunity to host a Family Connection Evening in our home! A team of bright young people have been traveling around the United States sharing encouragement with groups of families who come together for a weekend (in our case evening) of fellowship, food and exhortation!

We were so privileged to have David and Priscilla Waller (along with 3 of David’s brothers and another young man) and their little son Paul (plus a little one on the way!!!) here in our home. We were blessed to have many families come and spend the evening here, including several that we had not met, or did not know very well at all.

The evening was filled with wonderful messages and testimonies, singing, and sharing… One of the young men (Gabriel) challenged us with a deeper understanding of what it means to meditate, and why we need to be continually meditation on God’s Word, hiding His truths in our hearts. It was a powerful testimony that really convicted and encouraged each of us. We were grateful for all that was prepared and shared by the team!

Thank you Wallers (and Gabe) for traveling here to share with us! We so enjoyed the time spent fellowshipping and learning, and studying God’s Word together. We pray the Lord’s blessings on your team as you continue to travel for several more weeks, and also for each of the families that will come to be blessed and refreshed – as we were. :-)

Cheesecake… a Family Outing


posted by Stelzl Family in Family Fun

Following our arrival back home from Honey Brook Farms, the entire family took a special, fun outing! Some very sweet friends blessed us with a trip to the Cheesecake Factory! What a fun surprise – you should have heard the happiness when that day when someone brought the mail in and found gift cards!! :-)

Several in our family have been to the cheesecake at one time or another, but we’ve never been altogether as a family… and even then it’s been years! So what a treat… and one that we enjoyed to the fullest!


We shared *huge* meals – so much deliciousness!!

And then we picked out our flavors of cheesecake (pumpkin, tiramisu, chocolate peanut butter, and dutch apple) – which by then we were all almost stuffed anyway, so everyone took 1 or 2 bites and brought home the rest to enjoy the following day. :-)

Fun times, and what a sweet and relaxing way to finish off a long day of travel (for the 3 of us that were returning from the Wilkes’ in VA) and be together again as a family.

Thank you to the sweet family who surprised us with this very unexpected and SPECIAL gift. We so appreciate you, and love you! The Lord bless you richly in return, for your kindness and generosity! :-)

Blessed and Refreshed…Honey Brook Farms


posted by Sarah in Farm & Garden, Friends & Fellowship

It was just a thought in passing… and someone said it out loud so it became an idea… and then a few discussions and some phone calls later it became a plan. But plans do not always happen as planned… and through a series of unexpected events, setbacks, challenges, what-ifs, and very much prayer – the Lord opened up the door for three of us Stelzls to make a trip up north to Honey Brook Farms.


If you remember this post from last year, David and I spent a full week at the Wilkes’ farm last September (following a full week at Kilpatrick Family Farm with the entire family in upstate New York!). We were *so* incredibly blessed by our time, and came away with an incredible new knowledge of farm life – and we very much wanted to make that happen again this year!

Wow… what an incredibly amazing adventure! I still can’t believe that it actually happened, as 2 days before we left it seemed that the last door had closed. But God was gracious! David’s new mini-van had many parts that needed replacing and fixing, and a kind man from our church volunteered to work with David on the car for 2 days straight (at his home!). So when David arrived home at 3AM on the morning we were due to leave for our trip, we knew that we were free to set off on our adventure! And 2 hours later, we were up and preparing to leave! :-)

<A fun picture from last year’s visit on the farm…>

IMG_9598Our trip started bright and early on Wednesday morning, the 8th of October. We arrived at the farm late afternoon, in time to talk, tour the farm, help make dinner, and participate in farm chores, etc!

Thursday morning all of us girls set to work baking many delicious breads and treats (for the afternoon farmer’s market), while the guys set up for chicken processing. We joined them mid-morning to butcher 108 chickens, 1 turkey, and 15 ducks (which lasted until mid afternoon)… and then spent the remainder of the afternoon separating all of the chicken parts into various packages, labeling, bagging, organizing, etc. I was able to help with a variety of different jobs (including one or two where I told myself “I can do this, but no way can I bring myself to do that…” and soon I was right in there having oh-so much fun with all the others – total grossness… laugh it off! 😉 )!!! Many hands make light work, and the time passed by quickly with stories, conversations, and *so much laughter*!!




The Wilkes’ have a friend (Benjamin) who had arrived several days prior to our arrival, and was planning to stay for several weeks/months to help with the farm. Benjamin has worked at Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm, and has an incredible knowledge and understanding of farming. Through his skills we were able to successfully get the 15 ducks processed in a much easier and more effective way than prior attempts. He made us laugh so hard, and showed us how to do things easier and better. It was great fun getting to meet him and hear his stories, and to learn from him in many ways!

Friday morning 100 dozen eggs were washed and packed into cartons. Us girls baked more breads and dessert for the 3 Saturday markets (including an abundance of gluten free recipes). We worked fast in order to get everything finished by 2:30 as the girls needed to leave for an evening conference that was 1 1/2 hours away. My mom and I were blessed to join all of the Wilkes ladies (from Teams 1,2 and 3), along with the babies, for this conference – done by Shoshanna Easling from the Bulk Herb Store. The drive was 3 hours round trip, with the conference lasting from 5-9. We learned many wonderful things – I was thrilled to hear Shoshanna’s story of the many severe health issues she’s faced, and to come away inspired by many natural remedies and herbal ideas for more serious health issues (lyme, parasites, tick born diseases). And what a fun surprise to see familiar faces there from past conferences, and to meet a sweet girl who reads my health blog – but whom I had never met! (Thanks Cameron for introducing yourself to me!)


<With sweet friends… at Shoshanna Easling’s Journey to Health conference>

On the drive up and back there were so many lovely and exciting conversations. I enjoyed hearing from Amanda and Lisa about married life (as young wives and mothers), organization and planning, caring for babies, etc. I talked with Sarah about the products I make, recipes for syrups, salves and tinctures.. and my ebook which is still in the editing stages here with various family members working on it. I smiled and made faces at the babies (who were beside me and in front of me) for most of the trip. They smiled back and ‘talked’, and then slept for a while).

When we arrived home it was midnight. I helped Sarah package up baked goods that had been cooling when we left (for market the next morning), fold laundry, and tidy up the kitchen. We laughed *so hard* while we worked… as if we don’t already laugh enough when we’re together, this time we were exhausted at the same time… I was so worried that we would wake the guys up (as their room was just about 10 feet away from the laundry folding pile), but the following morning we were relieved to hear that they had been ‘so out’ from a long and tiring day. :-) Ahhh… good thing!



Saturday morning started off early (lol… almost too early for our midnight adventures! 😉 ) with 3 teams going to 3 different markets, each about an hour from home. It was chilly and raining lightly at the market I attended, but we were grateful for all of the people who came to see us!! I so enjoyed hearing Josh talk to the customers about all the health benefits of their chicken and eggs, the non-GMO wheat in their bread, the gluten free products, etc. It was truly an educational experience, and to see them meeting needs which such passion was incredible! On the way home our group stopped to check out a small festival in a little town close to home. That was quite the interesting experience – both unforgettable and fun! More laughable moments. 😉


I helped Sarah make up some dinner and desserts after we arrived home from market early afternoon. We made fresh mashed potatoes for the Shepherd’s pie, from Daniel’s garden potatoes. While they boiled we ran out to tour the farm and see the sheep, pigs, chickens, etc. I so enjoyed the walk through the lovely fields, the cool breeze, standing on the hay bale with Sarah for fun pictures (thanks to Mark who rode his bike around the farm with us), and then racing inside after realizing that our potatoes were probably all over the kitchen. :-) Thankfully there’s always another pair of eyes watching out at the Wilkes’ home. And the kitchen was never deprived of someone to look after things. 😉





Later that evening Wilkes Teams 1, 2, and 3, along with the grandparents all gathered to celebrate 2 birthdays – with Josh’s first cheesecake (which was intended to be a surprise for his wife Lisa, but something funny happened…another story for another time that Josh tells really well! Laughing…), a homemade ice-cream cake, delicious dinner, and presents.



After dinner, we had the joy of hearing the Wilkes family sing a choral arrangement they’re working on, as well as another group song (including their friend Benjamin), a song that just the guys did, and another one with Matthew and Amanda (piano and singing). Benjamin played a few pieces on the harp for us, and then Josh & Lisa’s little guy quoted the New Testament book names in order,and sang several fun songs.


Sunday was a restful day. Daniel shared a message from James 3 on controlling the tongue, and exhorted us to speak words of life and blessing. This was followed by a time of praise, confession, prayer for our leaders, and hymn singing. We played games in the afternoon (guys) while most of the girls rested (I watched Matthew and Matthew and Amanda’s baby girl and played with her, while watching the guys figure out their new game). We played volleyball before supper, until dark. And of course we made the most of our last day on the farm, staying up into the morning hours with games, singing, playing instruments, etc.

Other highlights from the trip include:

– Laughing *so hard* with various members of the family – sometimes about nothing in particular, and sometimes about something absolutely hilarious… :-)

– Learning new aspects and skills associated with chicken, duck, and turkey processing.


– Being at the market with with several Wilkes’ on Saturday, and feeling quite at home – smiling  as customers asked me if we raise the chickens on our farm and if our mom could come and give a health class to some women… 😉


– Laying across the upstairs porch with Sarah and Mrs. Wilkes, watching the guys head out into the dark in pursuit of a pesky fox that has been killing off their chickens and turkeys!

– Racing around the yard and crawling under the truck with Markie and David – trying to catch one of many ducks that escaped from the trailer as Benjamin was getting some out for processing.

– Picking vegetables from the garden, for supper…

– Washing dishes, dishes, and more dishes… it’s officially a tradition, and my new favorite job in the kitchen lol.

– Receiving shocking and oh-so-very EXCITING news from a sweet family (dear friends) in New England.

– Helping Sarah dump a wheel-barrow load of food scraps into the pig pen, and watching them all squeal and rush around trying to grab the tastiest vegetables… 😉


– Helping Sarah give medicine and water to the goats. :-)

– Holding the babies, and playing with them.

– Sharing my most embarrassing moment (from just a few weeks ago!) with *everyone* (at least 4 times). A particular someone in this dear family always comes up with the most brilliant ideas at the most random moments – and that is how I ended up getting “volunteered” to share with the entire family around the table.  Ahh… *so much* laughter… and tears! 😉

– Washing eggs, eggs, and more eggs – then packing them up.


– Sharing testimonies, and hearing testimonies from different ones, of how the Lord has been at work.

– Getting to know different members of the Wilkes family better as I worked with them on various projects (doing chores with Sarah, being at market with Josh and Hannah, washing eggs with David (my brother) and Mr. Wilkes, helping Adam cut up chicken parts for a customer’s dog, conversing with Benjamin in the kitchen while making food, listening to Amanda share valuable insights on being a wife and mother, talking with Jenny at a late hour while she finished making pop tarts, etc.

– Having hilarious conversations at the dinner table… along with miscommunications on the part of a few who came in late, which resulted in twice as much laughter about the most random topics… 😉

– Making ranch dressing with Sarah one afternoon – apparently one of us thought the secret ingredient was *plenty* of onion powder, and the other thought it was *lots* of sugar… what an interesting salad dressing! LOL :-)


– Playing rush hour traffic with Sarah (we laughed so hard at the thought that we were actually playing this game together!! How long has it been since I played that? 😉 ).

– Singing around the piano with everyone!

– Waking up early and going to bed late (making the most of every single day)!

– laughing about the big spider sitting behind me on the porch (while we were all having lunch  at 3PM, after chicken butchering and singing).

– Watching the planes fly overhead all weekend, in preparation for the air show on Saturday (which some from Wilkes Teams 2 and 3 attended, while most of the others were at market).



– Seeing the young kittens and holding them.

– Walks on the farm, sunrises and sunsets, cool breeze, chilly mornings and evenings, fog, rain, sunshine…

– Family devotions, times of sharing around the table, story evenings, watching a session on financial freedom one evening and taking a self-evaluation test, brainstorming on survival ideas and valuable skills with the whole team, etc.

– Watching the Wilkes teams (1, 2, and 3) interact with such selflessness, love, joy, compassion, and humility. I so appreciated their gratitude, their sensitivity to one another, their encouragement and praise, their enthusiasm, their love for God and each other, their passion for what they do and the people they see and provide products for… and their willingness to admit their wrongs quickly and make things right.



Check out these fun pictures from last year’s visit. :-)

Thank you so much Wilkes Teams (1, 2, and 3) for making our visit SO very special – for graciously providing an incredible experience for the three of us – both to learn new skills and grow in our knowledge of how things are done on a farm, and also spiritually as we were challenged to grow in many ways by your beautiful Christ-like examples. We love you all so much, and look forward to future visits. Keep up the great work, and may Father bless you richly and abundantly in the work of your hands, and all that you endeavor to do – for His glory. :-)