Sunday, October 04, 2015

In the garden -- diggin' it

My garden is happy.
It's producing like crazy.
Tomatoes, carrots, peppers, pumpkins,
 squash, potatoes, basil, parsley, and some late lettuce.

I have noticed these last couple of years that my raised beds seem to dry out more in mid-summer and don't seem as productive as my in-the-ground gardens used to be.  So I decided to till a little patch this past week right next to the raised beds, then I filled them up with some yard mulch -- grass clippings and leaves.  I also intend to put some rotted alfalfa hay there and let the worms and bugs go to work on it, building up the soil there.  Next year I'll plant and see what happens.

 What I really want to do is dump half of the raised beds and till them under too, but I might only get one of my boxes dumped.  It would be a good experiment to see the difference in gardening next year.  I do have an in-the-ground garden on the sidehill next to my fenced-in garden and it really does great.  Weeding might be more of a problem, but I will deep mulch and that should really help a lot.

Have you heard of Ruth Stout?  She's an old-time gardener who was a big believer in deep mulch gardening.  She never tilled or added manure or fertilizers.  She just kept piling on old hay mulch year after year and let the bugs do the digging and fertilizing.  She called it Lazy Gardening, but I call it smart!  She wrote a couple books about gardening without the work, and there are a few articles and videos about her methods.  Here is an excellent article in Mother Earth News about her.  And here is a sweet video of Ruth telling about her gardening in her own words.  Ruth lived into her nineties and did all of her own gardening.

I took up the deep mulch, no-till method of planting potatoes a few years ago, and I can testify that it does work!  I rarely even water the potato patch and it produces more than we can eat.  I've used straw in the past, but I think this fall I am going to add a layer of old, moldy alfalfa hay to it.  I think it will be healthier for the ground and add more nutrients to it.  

 I just had to show you this beautiful plant that has climbed my garden fence.  It's a Hyacinth Bean Vine.  Kathie from A Sparrow's Home sent them to me a few years back.  I had tried planting them a time or two, but they never grew.  This year, I found the calico pouch with a few more seeds in it and decided to try once more.  And here they are!  Beautiful, purple-y blossoms with deep purple pods.  I think the beans are mostly ornamental, and I've read that the raw pods are poisonous, but I've also read that if you cook them well, you can eat them.  I just think they are beautiful and don't plan on eating them.  I hope that they might reseed and come up again next spring.  Thank you for the lovely gift, Kathie!  I think of you when I see them.

I can't quit bragging about my geraniums.  I love a pot or a bucket of geraniums on the front porch, and I've grown them every year that we've lived in this house.  There's just something about a bright red geranium that says, "Welcome home!"  At least that's how I feel about them.  The two pots I have are having a second flush and are in full blossom.  I'm so glad it hasn't frosted here yet because the flowers and veggie patches are doing remarkably well, even this late in the growing season.  Every once in a while God gives us the gift of a long summer.  I'm grateful!

Saturday, October 03, 2015

31 Days of Living Well and $pending ZERO

The kitchen pantries/cupboards were dumped out and wiped clean.
 Threw out the outdated stuff and organized.

 One of two upright freezers.  
This one holds two shelves of cow colostrum.
Clean, organized and room for other items.
The refurbed trunk has all the games in it.
Tossed out the stuff we don't play. Not on the to-do list, but why not?

There's a new challenge going on.  Actually, it's not new.  There are lots of bloggers doing a 31 Days of _______ for October.   One of them is 31 Days of Spending Zero over at Living Well Spending Less,  and it's the one that OnlyDaughter and I are doing together.  For the first couple days of the challenge, we are cleaning out our pantries and freezers and taking inventory of what we have.  Last night I spent the evening emptying out my two pantries.  One in the kitchen and one in the mud room.  Oh dear.  What chaos.  Plenty of food -- some outdated, some good -- but all of it in great need of organizing and putting to rights.  The other positive in this exercise is that my pantries are clean and shiny, and I know what's in there.  I don't try to totally organize cupboards in a different way because I'm of the age that I won't remember where I put something if I change things up too much, but having finished the tasks of cleaning and inventorying my pantries and freezers has been just lovely.  This way we know what we will be eating for the next 31 days because we will be eating down our pantries and freezers.  This is a much needed exercise for me since I am a ranchwife who has practiced building a well-stocked pantry and freezer for 34 years, and sometimes I just keep on stocking and stocking and don't move too much food out.  At least not like it was when we had five kids to feed every day.  With just the two of us now, we don't need quite the stockpile we used to.  Still, it's hard to take that "be prepared for anything" habit away now that I've been practicing it for so many years.  I won't quit, but I will modify.  At least I'll try.

Today we are supposed to plan a month's worth of meals using the foods in our pantries and freezers.  We will allow ourselves to buy just a few basics each week.  Things like milk, bread, eggs, cheese, toilet paper, etc.  Or whatever your few essentials are.  Mine will be milk, cheese and maybe some fresh fruit.  I'm lucky to have plenty of eggs and garden produce this month.  My daughter says we should barter with each other for a few food items since I have some things she'd like (eggs) and she has a few things I'd like.  This is all *legal* in the Zero Spending game.  The goal is to use what you have, use it up, go without, or find a way to get what you need without spending money.  I think the challenge will also help us to realize how little we really do need when we are focusing on just the essentials -- food, shelter, heat, gas in the tank.  In America it's just so easy to think that our essentials are much more than that.  I did a version of the Spending Zero last October and I was amazed at what I had left in the checking account that month.  It's a good way to "save" for a few Christmas presents or for something you might be needing -- like a new sewing machine.

 I'm planning to go through my cook book:  Autumn From the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch.  There are many delicious recipes -- and inspiration -- that I can cook and bake with the things in my pantry, freezer and garden.  Plus... what fun to try some new-to-us recipes from a very good cooker!

So....if you're interested, click on over to Living Well Spending Less and join us!  There are lots of tips and ideas that are given each day that will help you through this month of spending ZERO.  I'm excited!

One more thing I want to share with you.  A night or two ago while surfing the web for an article, I found an archive of Laine's Letters.  As a young mom I remember reading through many of her letters and being so encouraged.  I knew she did not have her website up anymore, but I was excited to find a web archive of her letters from many, many years ago.  Within the letters you will find lots of excellent ideas for homemaking on a budget, thrifty recipes, advice for living with husbands and children, and doing it under the banner of God's love.  Good stuff.  I look forward to read through them again.

Here's a tip from Laine's Letter called: 25 Easier Ways:

3) Set your table early in the day, if possible. It will just motivate you to cook! And it looks so welcoming to your husband when he comes home. Your children will look on in anticipation as well.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Happy little things...

The scrappy string baby quilt is getting closer to being complete.   
I sewed the white border on to corral the organized chaos.
This afternoon I sewed more multi-colored strips together
 and cut them into 2.5" strips that I'll stitch
for a border around the white border.
Just a little more edgy chaos.
Why do I love this?
I don't know.
But I do.

A bit of egg-citement!
The pullet hens are laying!
The middle eggs are hen's eggs
and the circle of eggs are pullet eggs.
(designed by Hubby!)

My new homemade fall wreath
made of prairie grasses, milkweed, and sumac berries.

And one more little thing...
the last roses of summer.

Happy little things!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Doll quilt...

More scrappy quilty stuff.
A doll quilt....with legs.
The neighbor girls helped me choose the scraps 
for a doll quilt.

The girls made their own quilts.
They glued fabric scraps to card stock.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Finished trunk...

It is finished!
And I'm really happy about how it turned out.

I tried to keep the trunk "as-is" as much as possible, minus the stinky wall paper, so after sanding the interior, I applied a MinWax penetrating oil stain in "natural" that revives the wood and maintain its true color.  There are many knotholes which makes the wood inferior and is why I think these trunks were wallpapered.  As I took the trunk apart, I noticed there was tape across the seams and over the knotholes to smooth it over for wallpaper.  I like the character and imperfection of knotholes, but they are a little rough and rustic.  The musty-trunk smell is now gone, but it has acquired the smell of the stain which is fine with me.  

On the exterior of the trunk, I rubbed some natural stain over the wood and oiled the steel exterior and leather with Nor-V-Gen oil -- a boot oil we use on our boots.  It helped to shine up the metal and removed dirt and gunk that was there and it deepened the color of the leather.  There is a blue-gray tinge to the outer wood slats that I wanted to preserve and of course, all the bumps and dings and scratches remain  -- the trunk earned them.   I haven't decided what I will store in it yet, but I have moved it to the living room as a side table for the big leather chair.  I think it looks smart and brings a lot of character to the room.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Scrappy little beginning...

I have a new craze.  String quilting.  Bits and pieces of scrappy strips are called strings, and they are sewn down, one upon another, to a muslin square or paper square.  It's addicting!   Nothing has to be perfect with string quilting -- which is my kind of quilting from time to time.  I like that I'm using up a gob of scraps.  I was beginning to wonder if I'd live with a huge bag of scraps for my whole life and then pass it down to my children who would think I was some kind of hoarder-packrat person.  But no!  My scrap collection is going to good use instead. Repurposed, so to speak. Some of the scrippy-scraps are from past baby quilts, dresses, totes, bibs, shirts and who-knows-what.  So there are memories built into each quilt. 

I promised myself I could start my day with an hour of sewing and then I would go on with the  *work* part of my day.  Most of the time, I put my sewing very last after all the work-y tasks are done. It was such a treat to put sewing first today!  String quilting is so addicting that  I went over my alloted time by fifteen minutes because I just HAD to finish the block I was working on.  (naughty me)  I got three squares done in my hour and just made one more this afternoon so I'd have a complete square (made of 4 squares).  Fun!  This quilt is going to be my own. Yes, my own baby quilt for the crib that is in my sewing room where my sweet grandbabies sleep when they stay with us.  I'm so excited to have my very own baby quilt once again.  ~smile~

If you want to watch a really good video on how to make string quilts, click HERE.  And be prepared to want to do nothing else for hours on end! 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Generations of sheep herders...

The first photo is of Grandpa, Hubby, NumberOneSon, and Lil Boy Blue -- four generations of sheep herders.  Kinda cool, I think.  Great Grandpa was a sheep herder before all of these fellas.  That's all they had back then -- sheep and maybe a milk cow and a couple horses.  The ranch in its Sheep Hayday ran 1400 head of ewes.  It required people to stay with the sheep all the time and herd them, take them to water, move them to good pasture for feed, and watch for predators.  Grandpa remembers the days of sheep wagons and taking supplies to the herders every few weeks. 

The open prairie is really most suited for sheep.  But Grandpa decided there was a place for cattle too, so against his father's wishes, he bought a few Hereford cows and the cows have made their home here alongside the sheep.  When I came to the ranch, there were about 100 head of cows and 900 head of ewes.  Now we have 250 ewes and 400 cows.

Yesterday we worked the ewe lambs.  We sorted them for replacement ewes, and out of our 170 head of ewe lambs, we picked 50 head that will be incorporated into our sheep herd.  The rest of the ewe lambs will be sold at a Special Ewe Lamb Sale next week.  It was fun picking and choosing the best of the crop and giving them a yellow ear button to identify their age.  Each year the ewe lambs get a different colored ear button so we know how old or young the ewes are and what year they were born.  It's all written down in the little red book.

I'm hoping we might be able to keep the 50 head of ewe lambs around the house for a week or so and let them graze down the grass and weeds that grow around the buildings and low spots.  It would be fun to herd them and watch them all day long as they graze close to home.  It's a little tricky having them close to yards and gardens and trees though.  The dogs would love to keep an eye on a little flock of ewes. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Hatch Chiles...

(an un-posed food shot, snapped by my daughter while I was eating)

I ordered a 20 pound box of Hatch Chiles as an add-on to my Bountiful Basket this time.  I honestly didn't need or want a BB, but I DID want the Hatch Chiles.  The girls shared with me so we all ended up with a nice amount of frozen chiles, but before we roasted them over the grill and froze all of them, I just had to give Chiles Relleno a try.  I had never made it, but with a little guidance from Kim and the internet, I found a good Authentic Chiles Relleno recipe, and the VERY best Roasted Salsa.  Yum-O!

We invited the kids over for supper and ate chiles relleno until we were stuffed.  We had a few left over so I've been reheating them on a rack over a baking sheet in the oven and they taste just as fresh as they do hot out of the skillet!  We will definitely do this again.  I found a really great YouTube video of a Mexican grandma and her granddaughter who cook together.  The granddaughter translates and keeps the video bouncing along while Grandma cooks.  I think they are just the most fun Mexican Cooking Videos because they are real people in a real kitchen cooking food made from simple ingredients, and Grandma sure does know her stuff!  Check them out here!

What I love about the salsa recipe is the deep roasted flavor that comes from broiling the tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic in the oven for a few minutes and then blitzing it in the blender.  Oh goodness, it's one of the best salsas I've ever had.  And of course, you could make it as mild or as hot as you like.  I had the salsa on my chiles and my burger.  So good!  I hope you try it while the chiles are still out there!

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Flower art...

(we gathered)

(we arranged)

(we played)

(we created)

(we had fun)

The Littles were with me this afternoon while Mommy took the new baby for a check-up.  I was inspired by Maya's Botanical Meditation, and invited the children to walk in the gardens and fields to gather flowers and leaves and grasses to create our own flower art.  The girls were thrilled to create their masterpieces and then have them photographed to be saved for a time when the blooms and leaves are no more.
Like the musician, the painter, the poet, and the rest, the true lover of flowers is born, not made. And he is born to happiness in this vale of tears, to a certain amount of the purest joy that earth can give  her children, joy that is tranquil, innocent, uplifting, unfailing.
~Celia Thaxter (1835 - 1894)
Source: An Island Garden, 1894

Friday, September 04, 2015

A new baby!

A new baby has arrived! 
 She's the 4th child of NumberOneSon and JLo.  
The sibs have been with us today,
and I'm supposing the family will be united 
tomorrow evening sometime.  

Amelia Rose was born today, 8 lb. 11 oz. 

We're so happy and so blessed.
  This is our 8th grandbaby.  
Thank you, God for such wonderful gifts!


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