Thursday, April 10, 2014

Springtime happenings on the ranch...

 (tulips spearing through the cold soil)

 (Mr. T, a twin and bottle baby)


( First-time mamas and their calvies)


(House finch sat perched on the skull all afternoon.)

Howdy Friends!!
It's been a busy few weeks here -- lots of calves born to their mamas who are first-timers at having babies.  It's been a challenging  month with backwards-born calves and a few heifers that were taken to the vet for c-sections.  We're still getting up in the night to check on them.  Thankfully we're getting close to the end with just four heifers left to have their calves.  

The mature cows have started having their babies too.  They are out in the pastures doing their thing.  We drive out there and check on them a couple times a day or more, depending on the weather.  This past week we've had the springy-est week of all.  All the snow melted off and there's lots of water in reservoirs and green grass coming up.  We are still feeding everything every day because there is not enough green grass yet for good grazing so we supplement with hay and alfalfa cake.  

The sheep went through a bout of illness.  We had coccidiosis in the herd which is a nasty digestive disease, something like getting e coli.  We had to give them an oral liquid medication every day for 5 days in a row -- both ewes and their lambs.  That's about 500 mouths to open each day.  It was quite a job, but now that it is over, the sheep look great and are happily out grazing the pastures.  The lambs are getting so big.

More and more birds are migrating home for the summer -- ducks of all varieties, killdeer, and our most recent sighting was a pair of  Sandhill Cranes.  Just a couple days ago Hubs and I were taking mineral and salt out to all the livestock, and we drove up to a pair of Sandhill Cranes.  What a thrill!  I wish I had had my camera, but no. You can see them here at All About Birds if you're curious.  We usually have few pair who choose to stay with us for the summer.

We have so much water around that the beavers are moving in on us.  This is a rare thing.  There are lots of beaver on the River where there are lots of trees, but not here on the prairie.  Last evening OldestSon thought he saw one of the dogs swimming in the pond next to our house, but on closer examination he found it wasn't a dog.  The critter took a dive under water and there was the obvious big, flat tail sticking up in the air.  We noticed a few young cottonwood trees were gnawed down right next to the water.  This is the trouble with beaver -- tree eating.  As I walked to the barn in the dark at 3 a.m. to check heifers, I  heard a mighty splash right next to me.  I can only guess what it was.  Bah!

Easter is on the way and I've been reading the Gospels, particularly Matthew and Mark so far.  What seems to stand out to me as I read is that everywhere Jesus went, he healed people.  He healed Peter's mother in law, Jairus' daughter, a possessed man, lepers, the lame, blind, and deaf.  No matter where Jesus went, the crowds laid their sick in the streets or pressed in on Him that they might touch the fringe of His cloak, and as many as touched it were being cured.  I wrote in my notebook, "Jesus is The Cure."  He is. 

Thanks for stopping by to visit.  I've missed you.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Cheese 'n' crackers...

Before the cheese and crackers, a story!
A couple of weeks ago, there was a lamb that was bummed by it's mother.  It was looking very thin and ill so we decided to catch it and take it to the goat herders in town.  They were glad to receive her into the fold,  and in return Mrs. Goatherder  gave us a gallon of fresh goat milk to take home.  I was thrilled.  I decided to make goat cheese with it.  It was so easy to make.  I followed the directions at Henry Milker, and it turned out just perfect.  I added dill, garlic, and salt to mine, and I let it cure in the fridge for a couple days before eating it.  It's a soft cheese, similar to cream cheese but maybe a little bit firmer.

After making the delicious goat cheese, I decided I needed some crackers to go with it.  I didn't have a cracker in the house so I decided to make my favorite cracker recipe,  Rustic Crackers.  I found the recipe in the MaryJanes Farm magazine years ago.  I've made a few cracker recipes since, but nothing could even come close to this one.  So I'll share it with you here.  You can mix and match the kinds of flour you like and also change up the seeds to your preference.

Rustic Crackers

1 1/2 c. flour (I like to use half whole wheat or rye)
1 1/2 t. cream of tartar
3/4 t. salt
3/4 t. baking soda
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. water

Wash:
1 egg
2 t. sugar
1 t. balsamic vinegar (you could use apple cider)

1/4 c. sesame seeds
course salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350* and lightly grease two cookie sheets.
In a medium bowl, combine first four ingredients and mix well.  Add oil and stir until mixture resembles course meal.  Add water and stir until dough sticks together.  (you may need to add a little extra)

In a small bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, and vinegar.  Set aside.

Split dough into two equal pieces.  Turn one lump out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out very thin. (think pie crust)  Place on a greased cookie sheet and brush generously with half of the wash mixture.  Sprinkle with salt and sesame seeds.  Repeat with the other lump of dough.  Score with pizza cutter into desired shapes/sizes.  Bake time will vary with thickness of the crackers.  Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes at 350*.  I find that the crackers on the outside edges bake faster so I remove them when they are dark golden brown and allow the rest of the crackers to finish baking.  Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

I use ALL of the wash on the crackers.  It helps them to brown and gives them a very tasty flavor.

This batch I incorporated ground flax seed into the flour and also sprinkled whole flax seeds into the dough instead of sprinkling on top. This is a very versatile recipe.  Experiment with your favorite add-ins and enjoy.  You can't beat healthy crackers that are easy to make and inexpensive.  Have you priced good crackers lately?  Four bucks a box at my grocery store!

We've had some beautiful days here lately, and tomorrow the temperatures are supposed to climb into the 60s, but guess what!  We're expecting a big spring snowstorm the very next day -- 12-18" of snow!  The good news is that it'll melt off fast!  That's spring on the northern prairies for ya.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

More peasantry...

Three more peasant dresses done!
These two have attached sashes that give an empire waist effect.
Miss Peach and Toodles were happy to wear them.

This peasant dress has more flair to it.
Miss Bee didn't like her first dress because it didn't twirl.  A girl likes what she likes, so I decided to make her another dress.  I cut the bodice at the waist and added this twirly skirt pattern (tutorial included) to the bottom.  She loves this dress!  

I'm having so much fun sewing these days.  Just one more li'l peasant to stitch up for Rootie Tootie, and then I plan to make a dress for DIL and me.  I found the cutest pattern, The Sis Boom Meghan Peasant.  I'm going to do a mock up top using a vintage sheet to see how it goes together and to get a feel for the size and shape I'm after.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Reclaimed denim sewing...


I can't tell you how many times I've reached for my pot holders and thought, "Gosh, I need to make some new ones."  I'm partial to the denim pot holders for their ability to stand up to everything I can dish up and dish out of my kitchen.  They remind me of my loved ones too because they are made from pieces of their old jeans.  This time I recycled the pockets along with the legs of denim.  I had the idea that I could slip my hands into the pockets, but honestly these particular pockets are too small for my hands.  They must have been kids jeans -- little butts.  Still, I like that extra barrier the pockets give against heat and they look cute too.

I reclaimed some denim for bibs for Little Boy Blue.  He's six months old now and is gobbling up solid foods so he needs some hearty protection from all that dribbles out of his mouth.  These ought to do the trick.  There are tons of bib patterns out there, but this is the one that I tend to make the most.  I use a ponytail elastic for the button loop and put a big button on the other side.

Here's a cute bib tutorial and pattern for you!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My feathered friends are back!

 mountain bluebird

It MUST be spring!  Today, just one day before the vernal equinox, I spotted 3 bluebirds on the fenceline as I drove home from feeding cows, and then as I was fueling the truck, I heard the western meadowlarks singing their sweet hearts out.  When I drove home and got out of the truck to walk into the house, my ears caught the sound of robins chirruping.  Oh, my soul rejoice!  It's Spring! 

western meadowlark
American robin
(pictures borrowed from Wikipedia)

The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, 
for to have faith is to have wings.”
~J.M. Barrie, The Little White Bird

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Peasant dresses...

For fun,
today I sewed
peasant dresses for the littles.
Sweet Little Dress
Sizes 12 mo. to 5T
Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

He's watching over all of us....

(This is a re-run post from 2010.  Thank you, CS, for bringing it to mind again.)

A warm day....

  
Three sets of prints in the snow:  sharptail grouse, man, and tractor.

I spent quite a bit of time at the lambing shed today.  A ewe had triplets.  One lamb came at 5:00 a.m.  Her lamb was small and that generally tells us there will be at least one more.  If the lamb is quite large, it's usually a single lamb.  She didn't have a lamb later on in the morning either which seemed odd.  Finally one of the men decided to check her.  Yes, there was another lamb inside.  No.  Two more.  So they helped her by pushing them in, finding the feet, and pulling them out, one at a time.  These lambs were born at 9:00 a.m., four hours after the first.  The guys thought they'd be dead, but they turned them upside down to drain any fluids that might be in the lungs and they began to breath.

A while later, we checked on the lambs and Hubs decided we ought to try feeding them by bottle because he wasn't sure if the ewe had enough milk for the three of them.  At our house, there is one deep freeze that is mostly full of cow's colostrum.  I took a pint out and began to thaw it to feed these little lambies whose mother didn't even lick them off.  I wondered if she didn't feel very well?    When I got to the barn, I found one of the triplets dead and the other two cold and wet and quite hungry.  It usually takes some doing to get newborn lambs to suck a bottle.  They would rather have the teat, but in this case, mama ewe wasn't "mothering up" very well so they had little choice.

I pulled up a five gallon bucket and turned it upside down for a chair, grabbed a wet lamb and put it between my legs with it's head facing away, and I proceeded to force the nipple into it's mouth, maneuvering the jaw to open and then allowing it to close down.  From here on, there was a lot of sitting and waiting and fiddling to  get the lamb to suck.  These things take time and patience.  The big barn door was slid open today since it was very warm -- 50 degrees by noon.  The roof was dripping and I was staring off out the door. There wasn't much to look at except for the snow, but I could see the top of the hill where the county road goes by and I saw the mailman stop at the boxes.  Other than that, I just sat there thinking, "Here I am, sitting on a bucket in the barn, trying to get a scrawny lamb to suck a bottle.  Nobody knows I'm here and it really doesn't matter much in the scope of global economics.  But I'm here, and I want this lil fella to make it."  Then  I thought of the shepherds back in Jesus' day, watching their flocks by night,  and I wondered what they might have been thinking way back then.  "Here we are, out here with a bunch of stupid sheep, watching them sleep and watching for coyotes and waiting for morning to come.  Why are we out here anyway?  Who cares?  I wonder if there will be anything for breakfast at home?"  And what happened next?  A heavenly host of angels appeared announcing the birth of the Savior of the World to them.  They were to be the first to see Him, and the first to spread the Good News!

Well, no heavenly host of angels came down from the clouds today, but a simple revelation did.  I have been meditating on the verse from Matthew 6 which says, "Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?"  If God cares for the hungry sparrows and if He set me to feeding the hungry lambies, well then,   He cares for me too and all those people that I love and care about.  He's watching over us all, thinking of us all.  We don't have to worry or be afraid because He is with us right where we are whether we are in a lambing barn or a sky scraper, in a ship in the middle of the ocean or in the middle of a hard situation we don't know how to handle.  He knows our needs; we can trust Him.  I know this sounds simple, but when you are out in the middle of nowhere feeding lambs, you think about things like why you are here on this earth.  Some folks wouldn't think that taking care of sheep is very glorifying, but if it's His work and He sets me to it, then it glorifies Him somehow.  That's good enough for me.  I draw near to Him and He draws near to me and that, I think, is what matters at the end of the day.

"Patty"

I had a little time to go for a walk today too.  I just had to spend some of this gorgeous day appreciating the things around me and walking out in the midst of a warm dripping day because I know the next few days are going to be cold again and the snow will come again, so I intended to enjoy the day God gave.  I noticed that many of the ewes were lying on their sides with their full lamb-bellies sticking up, bulls were stretched out soaking up every bit of sunshine they could.  The cats were sitting on fence posts and lying on hay bales soaking up the warmth. I let the chickens out of the coop so they could go scratch and pick through the straw and the manure piles. I noticed the tracks in the snow and the comings and goings of  the sharptail grouse and the gray partridge.  Every beast and bird was all about soaking in the sunshine today and so were all of us human creatures too.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures, great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well!

Maker of Heaven and Earth
by Cecil Frances Alexander

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Melting, melting, melting...

 (creek in front of our house coming down)

 (same creek running next to our house)

 (overflow from creek and from the pond.  this is below our backyard)
(the first bunch of lambs we docked today)

'Twas a beautiful day in the neighborhood today!  Warm temps and melting ice and snow sent creeks rushing down and circling round our house.  I feel like we are surrounded by a moat!  It's funny to hear a gurgling creek in these parts.  It happens here rarely, but it does mainly when there is a great run-off of snow-melt or a fast or long rainfall.  This meltdown will fill lots of creeks and reservoirs and rivers.  The Little Missouri is coming out of its banks.

We docked our first bunch of lambs today.  My parents came out because they like to help with docking, and the little neighbor girls enjoyed playing in a big pen full of baby lambs.  

Tally:
50 Ewes
76 Lambs (41 bucks & 35 ewes)
That makes for a 152% crop out of that bunch.
   

Friday, March 07, 2014

Thawing...







The great thaw has commenced!  The temperatures are rising above zero and even up into the 50s one day this week!  Wow, what a change -- a 75 degree swing in just a few short days.  We've had fog, frost, melting snow and icicles, and last night a pouring rain.  A big melt down of snow has run off into puddles, gullies, creeks and rivers.  The reservoirs are filled to overflowing and some are spilling out of culverts or over their banks.  Low areas of hay fields and pastures are covered in water.  There are even places where the ground has heaved due to the constant thawing and freezing we've had over the past few months.  The next couple of days the weatherman promises even warmer days that will really have the water running down creeks and low lying areas. 

Our first calves were born this week.  So far, three babies are on the ground and there's a pasture full of heifers who will soon have their very first calves.  The ewes are all done lambing and have been turned out to pastures with sheds so they can be gathered up and sheltered if the weather should change to cold, snow,  or rain.  It's a busy and exciting season.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Doggone COLD...

Sun dogs are on either side of the setting sun tonight.
(I'm showing just one side)
The wind's blowing the snow around.
The early morning temp was -30*
and this evening 
 it's warmed up to -10*
Baby It's Cold Outside!

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