It is now 4 a.m. and my husband Joe left for work minutes ago. The children are all still sleeping, which gives me some quiet time to write this column. School is now out for the summer, so there is a lot more action around this house with five more children home during the day. The older girls, though, are sure a big help to me. For instance, yesterday, we all stayed home and swept and mopped the floors. It sure refreshed everything!

We had a rude awakening at 2 a.m. yesterday morning. Our three horses and our pony all escaped from the fenced in field behind our house. Turns out, they were down at my sisters, Susan and Verena's, place. Susan chased them this way and Joe headed them on back to our house, but not before they galloped through my garden. I have a little damage but not that much considering three horses and a pony went running through there. It could've been much worse and we are so thankful there wasn't any car traffic on the road at that time. I'm not sure if one of the children left the gate unlatched, but somehow they managed to push the door open and escape. All is well that ends well, but it's a good lesson to double check the gate. We tried to go back to bed, but I couldn't fall asleep as I knew I'd have to get up in a half hour or so anyway. And then not long after we were safe and sound back in the house, a light thunderstorm moved through. I'm glad we had the horses in before that.

The evening before we put up 220 bales of hay out of our field. My sister Emma's family and Verena and Susan were here to help. It's been awhile since I handled bales of hay. I almost forgot how your arms and legs get scratched up. While growing up we had quite a few acres of hay. With only having two brothers, us girls and Mom helped put in hay quite often.

Uncle Joe and Betty Coblentz from Indiana gave us a surprise visit and spent the weekend out here in Michigan with us sisters. We all had supper on Saturday night at Verena and Susan's. On Sunday, after our company left, we went to Emma and Jacob's. Joe and I biked to Jacob's while the children followed with the pony and pony wagon. I biked eight miles so I'm slowly building up my distances. I love to go biking and Sunday it was not too hot to do it.

I broke my glasses this week so yesterday I went to get an eye exam and order new glasses. I have an old pair to wear now. It's been probably five years since my last exam so I guess I was overdue for one anyway. Now today I take Kevin to the doctor for his nine month check up, so there are lots of routine medical stuff to fill the days this week. Baby Kevin is sure a happy baby and really continues to grow!

To the Quarryville, Pennsylvania reader who asked about the free cookbook. Here is the information as supplied by my editor:

Editor's Note: Due to response, cookbook order deadline has been extended. Titles are: "Best of The Amish Cook, Vol. 1", "Best of The Amish Cook, Vol. 2", "The Amish Cook Treasury" and "The Amish Cook's Family Favorites." Each title - shipping included - is $20. Each book is approximately 200 pages with plenty of recipes and stories. The set of four can be purchased for $65. Send order to: Oasis Newsfeatures, PO BOX 2144, Middletown, Ohio 45042. Books will be delivered by August 30. All books are packed with facts, stories and tidbits about Amish life, along with plenty of recipes. The Treasury, however, is just recipes, a collection of recipes from Amish, Mennonite, and German Baptist kitchens. As a "thank you" to readers for their support through the years, anyone who orders a full set of cookbooks through July 15 will receive - via FedEx - a free copy of "The Amish Cook Family", a colorful photo-filled coffeetable cookbook when it is released in September 2007. )

If you still have rhubarb to use, here is a salad to try:

RHUBARB RASPBERRY SALAD

3 cups cut up rhubarb

1 cup water

1 (3 oz) box raspberry jello or gelatin

1 cup sugar

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped nuts

In a small saucepan, cook rhubarb in one cup of water for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add gelatin and sugar. Stir until dissolved. Cook until mixture turns to syrup and then add celery and nuts. Stir and pour into a glass dish. Chill or refrigerate until firm.

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