Monday, September 29, 2014

Mending li'l jeans...

 I am having too much fun!

 I love denim.
And I have always been a mender of jeans.
Lots of jeans.
Living with five kids and working
on a ranch
 along with a husband who works hard, 
jeans ripped 
and tore
and wore out.
I have mended innumerable jeans
(meaning I have never numbered them and wish I had).

 When I was in seventh grade,
 I started embroidering...
on my jeans. 
I drew on my jeans with a ballpoint pen during class
and went home and embroidered them at night.
I wish I still had those jeans.

 Now I feel like I'm re-living seventh grade.
OnlyDaughter brought me four pair of li'l girl jeans
to mend.
And this is what I have been doing in my spare time.
Love it!

 Soon I will go next door and grab the other little jeans
that belong to more of my little people
and stitch on them too.

Won't that be fun?
Yes, it will!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Leaves are falling...

Remember that cold week I told you about?  The one where the low temperatures were hovering around 22 degrees?  Yeah, that one.  Well, it's long past and now it's on to Indian Summer, just what I wanted.  Cool mornings, warm, sunny afternoons, and cool, crisp nights.  It's good weather for me, and it's good weather for leaf-turning.  The poplar tree in the yard is releasing its golden leaves while most of the other trees are just beginning to turn.  Gold is the prominent color here except for some rich red Halogeton which grows in the alkali flats in some of our pastures.  It's pretty to look at, but poisonous to livestock. 

I've been doing lots of things lately.  I took a hike with my son, GentleSasquatch, in Spearfish  Canyon where we went to Community Caves and then to 420 Cave.  (Here's a link to his blog.) Both were steep climbs with high look-outs amidst sandstone rock caves.  It was great fun.  I so loved the varied mountain plants and awe-full views from rock cliffs.  I kept wanting Sasquatch to take pictures, but we both knew they would never turn out just like we saw them with our own two eyes.  S. made the comment:  "The best cameras in the world cannot see like the human eye.  They only wish they could capture what we see."  True.  He does have some nifty fotos on his blog of the views from 420 Cave if you care to take a look.  Here's us (duo-selfie).

I finished up two batches of Zucchini Salsa.  O man!  It was good stuff!  The only tweak I made to the first batch was to add five jalapenos to the recipe for a little extra heat.  The second batch I added more jalapenos for more heat.  The recipe was one of the very best canned recipes I've made.  The taste and texture is a lot like Pace Picante sauce.  Click here for the dandy recipe.

Our local sweet corn grower is calling it quits for the season today.  JJo and I went a couple days ago to fetch several dozen ears of that delicious sweet corn to freeze.  She processed six dozen and I did ten.  By the end of the day, I had 44 pints of delicious corn-off-the-cob for my freezer stash, much more than Hubs and I need, but we can always share it with our kids and guests.

I think I'm done canning except for applesauce.  My dad's apple trees are bursting with beautiful apples so I intend to get some homegrown sauce made and maybe a little apple butter too.  Dad has an apple press; I'm hoping to help him press some fresh apple juice.  Yum!

Our basement, which had the sewer backup problem, is now fixed.  It feels like a totally new place, even though all that was done was drywall repair, texture, and paint, and a new carpet laid in the bedroom and living room, hall, and stairs.  Oh, it's so nice.  All I have left is to finish painting the closet doors and set up the bedroom again.  I'm so blessed to have CarpetnerSon here to fix things up for me.

Now the men are on to a new project -- building a shop that looks like an old barn.  I'm so excited.  CarpenterSon really needed his own space to do his thing and so the men decided to go ahead and build it while we've still got the good weather to get it up.  So far they have the cement poured and the rafters built.  Next the walls will go up and the rafters too.  They'll try to enclose it before wet weather comes our way.

I think that's all that is on my mind for now.  One more thing that I've been thinking about, actually.  From My Utmost for His Highest today, excerpts:

Show to the other man what God has shown to you; and God will give you ample opportunities in actual life.  To be a disciple means that we deliberately identify ourselves with God's interests in other people.  "That you love one another as I have loved you." God's life in us expresses itself as God's life, not as human life trying to be godly.

What are you up to these days?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Herbs and stuff....

(drying herbs)

 The cold air descended upon us and thus the garden had to be harvested in a hurry.  I plucked nearly all the herbs:  flat leaf parsley and curly parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and the caldendula flowers that I use in my salves.  I picked all the lettuces and a few tomatoes that had turned orange, the pumpkins were brought into the garage and part of the garden I covered with a tarp, hoping to selvage what I could after the freezing temps of the night.  The root veggies would be safe underground.

This morning we awoke to just 22* so I was quite sure the garden would be totaled.  Even the covered tomatoes and peppers were wilted from frost.  Some of the herbs took it well though.  Probably because they were clipped short.  I'm not sure. 

I'm thankful that I always have those lovely root veggies to keep my gardening going even if it frosts a few times.  The carrots and spuds can take it and I like to keep them underground until the earth starts getting cold and freezing.  I feel like I'm still gardening, but not doing a whole lot.

I began drying my herbs.  I start by trimming off all the stems and letting the leaves dry on newspapers and towels.  I prefer this method to hanging little bunches all over. It always seems so messy to me to strip dried leaves off stems and have everything in a crumbly heap.  I prefer the whole leaves in tact.  The process of drying herbs got me to thinking more about herb teas, herbal oil infusions and all that good stuff, which reminds me that I still have some lovely peppermint and spearmint to gather in.  I forgot about them, but they seemed to fare the frost just fine.  One of the good, herby things that I decided to try for the first time is Fire Cider.  It's a concoction of everything hot:  onions, garlic, peppers, horseradish, peppercorns (among other additions) all covered up with apple cider vinegar.  It is left in a quart jar for 4-6 weeks with a daily shake to help move the good things around to infuse the vinegar.  The concoction is then strained and honey is added to taste.  It can be used as a tonic for the immune system or as a warmer-upper or as a tonic for colds and flu.  I'm thinking it would make a good hot toddy for cold nights.  If you're interested in Fire Cider, click here for a recipe and for a good video by Rosemary Gladstar who is an herbalist who I think is so interesting to listen to.  She explains the goodness behind Fire Cider.

 Along with the cold temperature, rain, sleet, and snow came huge flocks of birds into our front yard.  This is not the prettiest picture of our yard, but I wanted you to see how very many birds we had.  These were mainly yellow-headed blackbirds and their young.  Incredible gaggle of noisy ornithological specimens!

There are other birds that I've been noticing these past couple days especially.  I've seen catbirds, several vireos, and warblers which do stay for the summer, but seem especially prevalent now.  The Sandhill Cranes are flying over and sometimes roost in the big cottonwoods by our pond.  When we moved cows the other day, there were swarms of swallows swooping, diving, and catching the little white moths that the cows were kicking up as they walked.  All manner of birds are flocking up, and that usually means their migration is at hand.  I'm just enjoying the days as they come and trying not to be sad about their leaving us again.  Instead, I'm looking for the chickadees which sometimes come and stay through the winter months, and there are always the nuthatches and woodpeckers that keep my spirits high.  I am also anticipating the hoo-hoo-hooing of the owls soon and look forward to taking the littles out owling!

Tomorrow will be a warmer day and I hope to continue clearing the old, frozen vines off the garden and pull up the dead bean plants and such.  It'll be good to clean things up and put a few things away into the garage for next year.  The three neighbor-grands will be over for the day and we will surely enjoy a fall-ish day together outdoors.  There are already a few golden leaves falling from the trees.  We might make a chai tea in the afternoon and have a cookie.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  I hope all is well with you.  Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dig it!

(Yukon Gold potatoes and a wiffle ball)

It has turned cool here the past week so I decided to make soup for supper --  Zuppa Toscana and  paired it with a fresh artisan loaf of bread.  I thought I had potatoes in my pantry, but didn't.  But wait!  I did have potatoes... in the potato patch!  I slipped on my clogs and went out to check underneath the straw to see if perhaps there were a few nice spuds I could harvest for my soup.  I pulled back the straw from one of the withered plants and there were four softball sized Yukon Gold spuds waiting for me.  Oh joy!

As you may recall, I did a version of the No-Dig Method of Potato Planting again this year with a small change.  I dug in the seed potatoes just about 3" under the soil and then covered them heavily with straw mulch.  When the potato plants came up and shot up a foot or so, I added another thick layer of straw.  I only watered my potato patch 3 times this summer, and it was wet enough to grow potatoes along with some slugs (ew!).  I only needed one of these large potatoes to make a small pot of Zuppa for Hubs and me.  And oh, did it taste good.  The Yukon Golds have such a thin skin that there is really no need to peel them for the soup. I've only dug up a few more spuds so far to share with my dad who is always so generous with me sharing his abundance of garden produce.

Dad and I were talking about our gardens, the ups and downs of each of them.  He has fabulous tomatoes, beef steaks, that are bigger than the palm of his hand, while mine are pathetic and few. He has gobs of apples, and I have two.   He has peppers galore, and I have a few small ones.  My garden, however, has wonderful carrots and potatoes, pumpkins and squash, cucumbers and lettuces. Dad started telling me about his father's garden in eastern South Dakota.  I was just a girl, and I remember walking through rows of tall, tall corn, and getting lost in the rows.  Grandpa's garden was huge!  His garden grew long rows of sweet corn, taller than Grandpa's head, and there were rows of spuds and tomatoes and carrots and beans and all manner of garden vegetables.  Dad told me that Grandpa never watered his garden, that there was always just enough rain to keep the garden growing through the summer.  That amazes me because I could not grow a thing here if I didn't have water.  I cannot ever count on there being summer rains to keep a garden moist enough to grow and produce anything.  After growing row gardens in the past and now raised bed gardens, I do think that row gardens retain moisture better than the raised beds.  Do you think so?  Mulch sure helps too, but I don't remember there being any mulch on Grandpa's garden.

I took old Tom Jefferson's advice this summer and planted a teaspoon of lettuce seed every other week or so and I have lovely greens at various stages of maturity.  I haven't bought a head of lettuce all summer, and we eat a LOT of lettuce here.  Salads daily.  It's going to be hard to go back to grocery store lettuce when summer's over.

Are you hearing murmurings of an early fall and a hard winter coming up?  I have, but I'm ignoring it all.  I love summer so much that I refuse to listen to it, but instead I will live in the day and live summer to the hilt until it has passed into fall.  Most people think summer is over when school begins, but I disagree.  Summer is summer until it is gone (Sept. 22nd) and even then we might get a nice little extension of Indian Summer.  I'm hopeful.  I want more gardening, more homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers, more barefoot days, more sunshine on my skin, more flowers blooming and green grass growing, and more warm rains falling on pastures.  I want more days with short-sleeved shirts and shorts, more sandal days, more days pushing the grands in the swings, and more birdsong and duckquacks.  A pair of Sandhill Cranes are roosting in the big cottonwoods near our house at night.  I see them fly up from the trees when I walk by in the evening.  I want more of that too.  Do you think I want too much?  Enjoy summer.  I am will be!

Monday, August 18, 2014

I see the moon and the moon sees me...

Full Moon from August 10

I've thought about stopping in here to say hello and tell you about all the things that are going on, but the days just keep on dashing by and I haven't taken the time to stop and blog.  I took this picture for you on August 10th and here it is now August 18th!

I love the moon and so do all my grandkids.  They can always spot her in the night sky as well as in  the daytime sky.  I think that's cool.  The moon connects us all, in a way, since we all see the same one even though we are in different places and in different situations and in different time zones.  I don't worship the moon, I worship the Creator of the moon, but I do appreciate the moon's beauty which gives me a sense of smallness in the universe.  I think that feeling small is a good thing for me. 

Speaking of my grandkids, I'm on Grammy Duty this week for several days.  M&G brought Bee and Rootie Toot here to stay with us while they take a work-vacation.  They arrived Saturday night and will stay with us until Thursday sometime.  The cousins have been joining us for fun and playing too.  By the end of the day, we've had lots of romping & roping, climbing rocks & picking flowers, making mud cupcakes and birthday cakes.  They've pulled carrots from the garden to eat fresh with their fringed carrot tops on, and they've picked green tomatoes for their potions (which Grammy was not happy about!).  I'm glad we've had nice, warm days so we can play outdoors for the majority of the time. Sleep is sweet at the end of each day.

At bedtime we read at least two books and then sing a couple songs.  One night I started to sing Jesus Loves Me and Bee said, "Gram, sing one of YOUR songs."  It' tickled me that she has now assigned certain songs to me because I introduced them to her and Rootie.  Some of MY songs are:  Home on the Range, I've Been Workin' on the Railroad, Get Along Little Dogies, Hickory Dickory Dock, Hey Didddle Diddle the Cat and the Fiddle, and more.  All the grandkids are singers.  That makes me happy.  

OnlyDaughter and I spent a day canning Colorado Peaches a few days ago.  We canned 24 quarts of peaches and split them between us.  We also saved enough peaches out of our boxes to eat some fresh.  I baked a peach pie yesterday and boy, was it delicious!  I love those juicy globes of sweet nectar!  

Well, my time is now up.  The wee ones will be up from their naps in just minutes so I'm going to wrap this up and say good bye, and thank you for stopping by.  I hope you are enjoying each summer day.  Soon the days will turn cool and summer will pass.  Look up and see the moon!

I see the Moon and the Moon sees me,
And the moon sees Somebody I can't see.
God Bless the Moon and God Bless me,
And God Bless the one that I can't see. 

God looked down on me from above,
And He picked you out for me to love,
He picked you out from all the rest,
Because He knew that I'd love you the best. 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Good, simple things...

 Sage Grouse grazing in the flower gardens.

 A pop-up afternoon thunderstorm brought us a good rain, a half inch.
There was a lightning strike and another fire north of us, 
but it was short lived and rained out.

 Just before the storm, I ran out and picked a big head of lettuce.
This is a Butterhead.

 My new Birkenstocks.  
Hippie Flower.

Playing in the kiddie pool with the grands.

 Sunflowers blooming inside and outside the fence.

The subtitle of this blog post was going to be "Oh Poop!"  Can you guess why?  The septic backed up.  Joe Dirt (that's his business name) came and pumped the septic tank but there was digging that needed to be done to fix the problem.  Thanks be to God for good men who know how to do this kind of work.  Our men rented a backhoe from town and had the problem fixed in an afternoon.  Gotta love 'em!  The backyard's a little messy for now, the bathroom still stinks, but I can flush and wash up the dishes!   You know what Erma Bombeck said, "The grass is always greener over the septic tank."  It was, and it will be again!

We had a nice family gathering yesterday with twenty of us here.  I made Indian Tacos and all the womenfolk brought things to help out with the meal.    The littles had fun in the spa (pool) while the grown-ups talked and while observing all the splashing and screaming.  I made that really delicious Basil Lemonade,  and everyone enjoyed it.  JJo wondered if we could do something with all the lemon & lime leftovers, and I remembered citrus-infused vinegar.  I had an extra gallon so we scooped all that goodness into a mason jar and poured white vinegar over it.  It already smells good and will be nice for homemade cleaning products.  Ever tried it?

Addendum on Lemonade:
If you don't have sweetened condensed milk, you can add another 1/4 cup of sugar (or to your taste) to the simple syrup and proceed with the instructions.  I have also used a combination of lemons & limes for a different twist.  The limes definitely give it a really fun flavor.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rollin', rollin', rollin'....

 Keep those bales a-rollin'
Theme musica here.

More grasses for you to look at.  We don't bale these types.

 Prairie cordgrass or sloughgrass is common in low wet soils, 4-6' tall.

 Foxtail barley, a weedy native that is nasty to animals.  
The awns can stick into livestock and produce sores in their throats, eyes, noses.  Grows on low wet soils.

Garden flowers for you too!

 Black-eyed Susan or Rudbeckia

 Purple Conflower

OnlyDaughter sent me this pic of the sidewalk art she creates in her driveway and sidewalks along with her little girls.  She writes, "Purple Conflowers make me think of you!"  (Melts my heart.)

These summer days have been filled with cutting, raking, and baling hay, and at the moment, we are just a day or so from being all done with haying.  We've made a good, productive go of it, and we're thankful for every blade of grass that was rolled into each bale.  The cows and sheep will thank us when winter rolls around.  (Do you notice a rolling theme here?)

I've been pouring the water on the flower gardens and the veggie patch, and I'm trying to keep the lawn reasonably green, but it's the season when things start turning brown-ish in these parts.  We were lucky to have an inch and a half of rain last week when some thunderstorms rolled through.  The bad part about it is that the lightning touched off a prairie fire north of us.  The men took off in the rangefire truck and went to snuff it out.  In a couple hours they had it contained and it didn't amount to much, thankfully.  Most of the ranchers in our area have firefighting sprayers and when someone's place is on fire, everyone goes.  We have so much tall clover in the country that is dry as can be, and it has become a big fire danger here.  Everyone's watching the sky and the horizon when thunderstorms pop up this time of year.

We worked the sheep today and sorted the wether lambs off to take them to the sale barn.  They looked so good and the markets are very favorable right now too so we're hoping for good prices on our lambs.  We kept the ewe lambs back on their mothers and will sell them later at a special ewe lamb sale in September.

The yearling steers are closer to home in the North Pastures eating grass and getting fat.  Soon they'll be gathered and brought home to take to the sale too.  The mother cows and their calves are happily grazing in summer pasture and the bulls are still in for another cycle.

Tomorrow this Gram is going along with the Mommies and their children to the Water Park to play in the pools.  The Littles are very excited about that.  It should be a fun time for all of us.  Peach, Toodles, Bee, and Rootie Toot are going but Little Boy Blue must stay behind with Daddy.  We think he'll play out too soon and ruin the fun for the big kids.

I hope your summer is rollin' along  -- not too quickly, not too slowly.

Love is to the heart what the summer is to the farmer’s year — it brings to harvest all the loveliest flowers of the soul. ~Author Unknown

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hen and chicks...

These are the hens of the northern prairies, the Greater sage-grouse.  The photo above is a Sage hen with her young.  NumberOneSon swathed the area around our houses today and guess who had been hiding in the tall, tall grass?  This hen and her four chicks.  Every year about this time, sage-grouse show up around our yard and in a nearby alfalfa field.  Sage-grouse nest in sage brush areas and brood their chicks there, but when the chicks are old enough, they travel from the dry sagebrush areas and come down near us and eat whatever they like -- soft, green alfalfa seeds and other forbs.  The main diet of the sage-grouse is sage brush seeds, but they will also forage on other types of seeds, plants, and insects.  Today  JJo and I watched them walking through the yard nibbling from the ground. The grouse fly, but prefer to walk like chickens.  At one point the chicks got separated from their mother when the guys drove by.  It startled some of them and they flew, but the sweet low cluck of the nearby mother and the higher pitched  muffles of the chicks brought them all back together again.  The breeding ground of the sage-grouse is called a lek.  We really don't have any leks that I know of on our ranch, but I have seen the Greater Sage-grouse strut-dance one time.  I was far off, but it was amazing to see and hear.  Below is the mating dance of the male during breeding time.

We love our prairie hens and chicks.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spell me...

(backyard garden)

Hubby radio'd me this afternoon to see if I could go rake some hay for him.  Yes, I could.  I took the Ranger out to the hay field and proceeded to turn hay over.  We had had a lovely rain the day before and so only the thin hay was going to be baled today.  The heavy, wetter stuff would have to wait.  Anyway, as I was working on the second hour of raking, NumberOneSon called me on the radio.

"Mom, would you like me to spell you?"

"No, I'm ok," I said.

"I'm going to give you a break anyway," he insisted.

As I waited for his arrival, I thought about what a lovely phrase it is:  "Can I spell you?"  I don't think it's a phrase often used these days, is it?  Just like the phrase, "Sit a spell."  How often do you hear those words out of anyone's mouth who's under 60?  I like the old-fashioned phrases and words.  They make me think of simple days, of my grandparents and even my own parents who aren't so very old, and I wonder if one day my grandchildren will remember words and phrases that I used?

That reminds me.  Yesterday JLo (first-DIL) and I were working in the kitchen on some plantain infused oil.  I had gathered a basketful of it from below the backyard and was washing it up and spinning it dry.  The grandkids were here too and they just love to mess around in the kitchen at whatever I'm doing.  We were packing the plantain leaves into mason jars and pouring oil over them.  I remembered that I had some mini glass roll-on containers that I thought might be nice to put some of the oil in for carrying in a purse or diaper bag when the need arises.  As I was fishing them out of the plastic, Peach and Toodles thought that they would each like a "potion jar" as they call them to take outside.  They proceeded out the screen door with their jars in hand and collected a few rose petals in them, determined to make their own potions.  It thrills my heart to see them creating things from nature, whether real or pretend.  They see us and they want to do it too.  JLo said we may need to make a recipe book of Gram's potions one day for wedding gifts.

If you are curious about making plantain infused oil or salve, click on these links:  Wellness Mama or Mommypotomus.  Plantain oil or salve is great for relieving bug bits, poison ivy or oak, for healing scrapes, burns or nasty diaper rashes.  Check out MK's posts about it too!  Sit a spell and enjoy the reading!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

His 'n' Hers boots...

His 'n' Hers boots, clean and oiled

Hen & Chicks blooming

Ewes and lambs

 A few cows & calves

 Prickly pear cactus blooms

Buffalo grass

By popular request, the dirty boots are now cleaned and oiled.  They don't look beautiful, but they are clean(ish).  The oil makes our boot leather turn very dark which is not the most attractive, but it does saturate the leather and conditions it.  These are our work boots so they aren't meant to be "pretty" but rather, functional.

Have you ever seen Hen & Chicks blooming?  I don't think I ever have.  I wonder what will happen next?  Do you suppose it will send out seed?  Or will it just die?  I wonder.  There are some "chicks" below it so I'm sure they will establish themselves in the soil there.  I hope so.  I think I may take a few chicks and start them in a pot.  I love succulents.

Hubs and I went for a Sunday drive to check on the sheep.  The lambs that were born in February are nearly as tall as their mothers.  We found three longtails (late lambs born after we docked). We will likely wean them all in a couple weeks and then sell them in August.  They are so healthy and FAT.  Beautiful sheeps.  I love my sheeps.

We drove by a small bunch of cows and calves that are in the cull bunch.  They look good too.  All the cows are now out in their summer pastures, happily grazing on green grass and clover.  It's a huge clover year here.  I should have some bee hives, but I don't.

I took some pictures for you of the buffalo grass that is a native of our prairie.  It is not the dominate grass here, but in various areas on our ranch it grows with vigor.  It's a low-growing, tight sod.  I honestly wish I had it growing in my yard around the house.  I'd never have to mow!  It is possible to plug buffalo grass into yards.  It's sold by xeric plant catalogs like High Country Gardens, but I think it would take a ton of money and a century before it would be totally established in a yard.  Some things just work better naturally out on the prairie.  

Did you see the prickly pear cactus blooms?  I can't help but love them -- the blooms, that is.  Nasty, hurtful plant, growing in hard, dry ground, undesirable, and yet -- BEAUTIFUL.

We've had very cool days lately.  Low 70s for high temps.  It's nice.  It feels more like fall than mid-summer, but we know it's not going to last.  It'll turn hot once again in just a few days.  My tomato plants and cukes WANT heat.  Everything underground in the garden is doing great -- potatoes, carrots, onions.  And the cool season stuff -- peas and lettuce and kale -- are happy.  The rest is just so-so.  Oh, but wait!  The pumpkins are really vining like crazy.  We'll see if they produce.

Haying is in full swing.  We are going to have more hay than we thought.  Much in the hay fields has come back.  I spent part of Sunday afternoon raking hay.  I like to do that.  Now that our CarpenterSon is here working on the ranch, I do less of it, but I still like to make hay and take my turn at it now and then.

I hope your summer is going well.  I'm enjoying it.  I sometimes have to pinch myself when I see the green grass and flowers and birds.  It's hard to believe I'm in the same place that had feet of snow and sub-zero temps just a few short months ago.  But it is.  Enjoy each day!

I read up on the hen & chicks (sempervivum) and found that blooming is the beginning of their death.  What a beautiful way to say good bye.  Check it out here: Flowers on Hens & Chicks


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