Monday, June 28, 2010

He thinks my tractor's sexy....

It's official.  I put in my first hour of raking hay today.  I know.  Just one hour.  It's really no big deal, but I love doing it.  My job in haying is to spell the others when needed or fill in when someone is gone.  This is the tractor we use to rake hay.  It's a John Deere 2520 and I think it was purchased brand new back in 1972.  It has really been a terrific little iron mule for us.  I like it that there is no cab on it so when you drive it, you are totally open to the elements -- the sun and wind and bugs --  and you feel the heat of the engine blow back in your face as you drive along.  I like the heat so it doesn't bother me much as long as I have lots of water on board.

Looking out over the raked hay to the bales that are already made.

On the other side of me, you can see one bale way over to the left and then there's a tiny speck that is the swather cutting more hay.   (click pic to enlarge for a closer look)   All this hay needs to be raked before it is baled up and....."we've only just begun..." (Do you hear Karen Carpenter singing in the background?) 

 Here's my front view from the tractor seat.  A. just put a new muffler on the tractor and it makes such a big difference in the amount of noise it makes and now the pipe is taller so the exhaust doesn't hit me in the face, even when I stand up while driving.

Here's the rear view as I watch the wheels spin the hay into the middle to make one big windrow.  Sorry this picture is a little crooked, I was in motion while taking it.

Just me and my shadow...and the lark buntings and the hawks and the deer flies.  The boys wear their iPods while raking since this is a mindless job, but I don't.  I'd rather listen to my GodPod or pray or sing or think my own thoughts.  Can you see why I love this job?

One more thing before I sign off.  I just had to share this easy and delicious caramel roll recipe with you.  I think it's kind of an old recipe, but it's new to me and it's so good!  I made these for Sunday breakfast this past weekend and they were a hit!  I think if you make these on Sunday, the calories don't count.

Sticky Caramel Rolls

1 large package of butterscotch or caramel pudding mix (cook & serve)
1 c. pecans (or nuts of your choice or no nuts)
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 bag frozen Rhodes dinner rolls *

Before you go to bed..... grease a large baking pan.  Mix butter and brown sugar together.  Place frozen rolls in the greased pan.  Sprinkle dry pudding mix over the rolls and then sprinkle brown sugar mixture and pecans over the rolls.  Let them sit over night on the counter top to rise.  Bake in the morning at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden.  When the rolls are done baking, I turn them out onto a large platter to serve.  Be careful, the caramel is super-HOT!

*I don't use a whole bag of rolls, but just enough to fit in my large baking pan in a single layer.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Flower Power...

 Phlox, dame's rocket, baby's breath, daisies, and the dandelions-gone-to-seed.

There's a lot of flower power in my gardens right now and more to come.  Do you remember the saying "Flower Power" from the late 60's and 70's?  What, exactly, was flower power?  I was just a girl back then, but I remember seeing "flower power" bumper stickers and things.  I'm thinking it had something to do with "flower children" and "hippies" and such, but I digress.

Look what's bloomin' in my gardens.
Peachy-colored violets hide beneath the columbine.

The last of the iris are showing off.

California Poppies are appreciating the warm sunshine.

Larkspur are in their glory.

Larkspur up-close.

You've already seen the red poppies.
Coming soon....
black-eyed Susan.
I put up a little fence for my peas to climb and decided to put some twiggy sticks around them to force them upward.
The lettuce is growing like mad next to the peas and we're enjoying garden salads and tacos with fresh lettuce almost daily.  I'm sure looking forward to adding some snap peas to the salads soon.

The tomatoes are setting blossoms, but are a long way from ripe fruits.
Did you ever notice how hairy tomato plants are?
I like the smell of them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Make hay while the sun shines...

I took a bike ride out to the hay fields this afternoon.  We have only just begun to make hay here on the ranch, mainly because nearly every night for a week, it has rained.  Now, I'm not complaining, mind you.  We had seven years of drought in a row and I don't wish for those days ever again, but in order to make hay, you need some sunshine, some heat, some drying conditions.  That's where the old saying, "Make hay while the sun shines," comes from. 

I rode past this old stack cage on the way to the hay field.  It is what it says.  In the old days someone would buck hay into it .  That's a process where a tractor with forked tines on the front of it would scoop up the mowed hay and shake it into this cage.  Someone would tromp the hay as it came in and after enough bucking and tromping, you'd have a haystack.  The cage would be opened and moved to another spot and another haystack would be made.  I saw the process once in my life when I was a girl visiting my friend's farm.  Her dad bucked the hay and we played in the stack cage, tromping the hay down.  I don't remember if we tromped a whole haystack down though.  I rather doubt it.

About 20 years ago we used to make haystacks that looked like loaves of bread.  There was a stack box that the tractor pulled along over the windrows and suck up the hay.  Every so often the top of the box would press down the hay inside.  Like tromping, only easier.  After a number of rounds in the hay field and enough compressions, the stack was complete, but the hard work in making haystacks was tying them down so the winds didn't blow the tops off.  

Have you ever heard of a "needle in a haystack?"  As a young bride, I learned all about that needle while working in the hay field.  Hubs taught me well how to tie down the tops of haystacks with a needle that was about about 12 feet long and made of steel rod.  It had a hole in one end to accommodate sisal twine and was tapered to a dull point on the other.  Hubs and I tied pairs of stacks at a time.  One person would "thread the needle" with the twine and push it through the top third of the haystack, going straight through.  The other person, in between the two stacks, would pull the needle through and keep it moving through the other stack next to it.  Then the one who began to push the needle through would run around to the other side and finish pulling the needle and twine through the second stack.  The tricky part was throwing the needle over the top of the two haystacks.  The person in the middle must come out and wait to see that the thrower got it over.  If so, the thrower went around and pulled plenty of twine so the stacks could be tied down.  The person in the middle of the stacks would take a garden hoe, pull the twine down, tie a square knot on the right stack so the outside person could tie his stack down, and then tied the left-side haystack down.  The process continued three more times through the same pair so that there would be four ties on each haystack.  All the while we swatted deer flies and mosquitoes and gnats and had to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes that liked to nap in the shade of haystacks.  There was many an evening as we tied, that a nasty thunderstorm would be brewing up and we'd get done with our tying just in the nick of time.  You sure didn't want to be standing out on the prairie with a steel rod in your hand during a lightning storm!

Nowadays our work is done mostly by machine.  We use a swather to mow the hay into nice, long windrows.
After the mowing, we rake the hay.  Not by hand like raking the yard, but with another implement.  

This small tractor pulls the rake and the wheeled tines turn two rows of hay into one big windrow.  Raking hay helps it to dry faster and makes less traveling for the baler.  Now the baler will drive over the raked hay and make it into  big, round bales of hay.

Here is the baler going over the raked hay and sweeping it up.  The hay swirls round and round inside the baler until it's just the right size and then.....

 ...the end gate is opened and the bale rolls out the back.  When the hay is all made (and there is a lot of it this year) we will go pick up every bale and haul it in to the hay corrals for the winter's livestock feed.  Making hay is a whole lot easier now than it was even a few years ago.

 Did you notice how green and lush the grass is while standing there in the field and how stubbly and brown it is once it is cut and taken off?  If we continue getting these rains, the fields will green up again and will be good grazing  for the sheep and cows. 

"There is no reason to fear the wind if your stack of hay is well tied." 
~Old Irish saying

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The poppies are just now bursting open in my gardens.
I can't resist taking a close look inside.

How I love the light shining through the petals creating
a watercolor
yellow, orange, pink, and red,
and isn't the center a glorious creation?
Only God.

"As for marigolds, poppies, hollyhocks, and valorous sunflowers, we shall never have a garden without them, both for their own sake, and for the sake of old-fashioned folks, who used to love them."
~Henry Ward Beecher

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Simply Saturday, simple joys...

I got my bike out of the bunk house and found that it needs a new tube for the back tire and, as you can see, the wicker basket and flower are wilted and dilapidated.  It needs a little TLC.  I'm borrowing Hubby's bike for the now.

I brought some fresh flowers in from the garden and made a cheery bouquet.

There is always laundry to do on Saturday, 
and I'm glad for the nice, warm days to hang the wash out on the line.

My raised bed gardens are coming right along.
There are lettuces, radish, carrots, potatoes, onions, cukes, tomatoes, peppers and herbs.
Hazel Peach helped me dig and pull weeds and put cages around the tomato plants today.  I gave her a wheel barrow ride after we dumped some mulch around a tree.
It's so nice when the dishes are washed and air drying...

....and the eggs are washed.

Best of all, today was Gramma Day!
Hazel Peach and I went to tend the chickens and the peep-peeps.

I made the afternoon coffee, my favorite way.

And we each had a cup at the picnic table 
along with a fresh chocolate chip cookie. 
HP has her very own girl-sized cup.

(She takes hers black, like Gram.)
 Look at these comfy shoes.  Perfect for summer days.

We made ourselves chocolate ice cream cones
and ate them in the shade on the front porch
while the dogs eyed HP's drippy cone every minute until.... was finally handed over to Penny.
Happy Saturday!
What simply wonderful things did you do today?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New landscapes...

We are currently running livestock on some new-to-us land which we are leasing.  It connects nicely with our ranch and so it has become a good fit.  Hubs and I took a drive out there to check cows yesterday morning, so camera in hand, I was all about capturing the new landscapes.  We went via the Ranger, an all-terrain vehicle that allows us to go places that a 4-wheel drive truck won't.

Cows and calves don't have to travel far for their breakfast.  The lush, green grass surrounds them, even while they sleep.

This land adjoins the pasture where the cows graze.  We call it The Breaks because, geologically, it is a type of badlands that are rough, dry, clay or shale areas that erode and break away.  Right now, it is covered in tall, green grass, but it quickly goes dry and brown.  For now, it's a beautiful sight. 

Do you see how the erosion happens?  This dry, clay-shale soil erodes like crazy and continues to cut away at the banks.  It's a prime hunting grounds for fossils.

After a bend in the trail, this Prince's Plume stood as a noble guard of the highest point.  It was the only one we saw.  Prince's Plume is an indicator of high selenium soil.

Here is a close-up of him.  I found a small plant, likely a runner from this one, that we dug up to take home to the yard.  I hope it takes to the transplant.  I should have brought a bucket of dirt with it.

Ox-eye daisies were prolific.
Do you see that the soil is cracked clay?  When it rains -- and it has been unusually wet -- the rain runs into the cracks and allows the flowers and grass to grow like crazy.  The good thing about clay soil is that it holds fast to any rain that falls.

I just love seeing the peace and contentment that the cows and calves reflect when their every need is met.

This is one of my favorite pictures.  Cows trailing to an oasis of water reminds me that our Good Shepherd is in control.  It reminds me also of an artist I learned to love when visiting England.  John Constable did the piece below.

Salisbury Cathedral from Bishop's Grounds

There is no Salisbury Cathedral in the background of my "cattle at water" picture, but God is surely in it.

The bulls were turned into the heifers on June 3rd.  I journal this as a reminder to myself,  things of importance in ranching.  Additional bulls have been turned out as needed.  We want enough bulls to service the cows for breeding.  We check up on the bulls often and see to it that they are with the cows and that they are in good health and not hurt.  An injured bull can mean open cows (not bred), and in ranching,  this is a disaster.
I hope you enjoyed my photo journal today.  I enjoyed posting it for you.

For every beast of the forest is Mine,
The cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird of the mountains,
And everything that moves in the field is Mine.
~Psalm 50:10-11

He waters the mountains from His upper chambers;
The earth is satisfied with the 
fruit of His works.
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the labor of man,
that he may bring forth food from the earth.
~Psalm 104:13-14

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Road trip and flower pounding...

My sister came out for a visit this past week and we went on a very quick road trip to see our step-dad.
Can you guess which state we went to?
The pictures on the Corn Palace (yes, Corn Palace) are mosaics done with various colored corn.

This is a roadside sculpture park and RV park alongside the interstate.
When my sister and I drove up, we quickly turned around.  
It was kinda creepy in a redneck sort of way.

This was another place along the interstate near 1880 Town.  
I think they were trying to go WAY back in history with this display.
We did not go *in* to any of the tourist traps, but did quick stops for photo shots.  My sister is excited to show her co-workers the rural atmosphere and places of interest along the SD interstate.

After our return, we had a Redneck BBQ at our ranch.  There was horseback riding, trap shooting clay pigeons with shotguns, open fire pit S'mores and plenty of beer for the adults.  I told Sis that she really needs to do a movie with all her pictures so she can have a "slide show" at the law office.  They often do this when somebody goes to France or Italy so why not the Boonies?
They'll all be impressed, I'm sure.

Since our company has all gone home, I've been busy cleaning up and putting things away, remembering the fun we had together.  All five of our kids and their families (only 2 have spouses) came home, my brother B. and his wife and son came, and so did the Grandparents and some special family friends.  What a good time it was!  While I was cleaning, I decided to tackle the micro-suede sofa in my living room.  I would never buy  micro-suede furniture ever again.  It doesn't stay looking nice for very long, especially with children and now grandchildren.  But I did discover a way to clean it up.  I used a half gallon of warm water and added a tablespoon or two of Oxy-Clean to it.  I dipped my microfiber cleaning cloth into it and scrubbed the couch like mad with it and then let it air dry.  (How else do you dry a sofa?  Duh.)  Lo and behold, it came mostly clean.  At least it was a whole lot cleaner than it was before.  I'm thrilled!

Tomorrow I am giving a demonstration to a local 4-H group on Flower Pounding.  I've enjoyed this *sport* before, but today I re-visited the project with my daughter-in-love, J. and her co-partner, Hazel Peach.  I thought it would be fun to create  samples to take to the meeting so the kids could get some ideas of what we are trying to accomplish.  In the past I have made wall quilts from flower poundings and I did embroidery  around one flower pounding and it hangs as "art" in our bedroom.  After going through my favorite flower pounding book, The Art and Craft of Pounding Flowers by Laura C. Martin, I am totally inspired to pound the summer away.  The flowers are coming in strong and thick in my gardens so there will be plenty to thin out for pounding projects.  

The best flowers we pounded today were impatiens (pink), lobelia (dark blue), wallflower (orange) and dame's rocket (purple, right in back of impatiens).  Not pictured are violets.
  They are an excellent flower to pound.  We even got the whiskers to show up.  It is said, however, that the color of the violets fades quickly.  Leaves were also a good thing to pound.
This is my sampler which shows the experimental flowers we tried out.  We pounded them into cotton muslin but you could also pound flowers onto note cards or watercolor paper. I have found that watercolor paper or watercolor cards work best to receive the flower dye.

Just in case you would like to try your hand at flower pounding, I'll leave you with the  4-H hand-out  that I am going to give the kids.  It has the recipe for the mordant bath which you must use to treat the natural fabrics so that they will receive the flower dye, and then there is the Flower Pounding in a Nutshell, partly from the book and partly from my experimentation.

Flower Pounding

Preparing the cotton fabric.
Mordant Bath for 1 yard of cotton, linen, or wool or 1 ½ yards silk use:

4 T. alum
3 T. cream of tartar
20 to 24 cups of water

Mix alum with approx. 10 cups of very hot water (or boiled) and pour into a large non-reactive pan (stainless steel, enamel, plastic bucket).  Mix cream of tartar in 10 cups of very hot water and add to the alum solution.  You may add more hot water if needed to completely cover fabric.

Add wet, clean fabric (do not use softener), carefully arranging it so as not to wrinkle.  Allow it to sit in the bath for approximately 30-40 minutes.  When cool, remove from mordant bath and rinse thoroughly.  Dispose of alum bath by pouring it on the ground.

Dry the cloth on the clothesline or in a cool dryer.  Do not use softener or dryer sheets. Iron cloth and store by hanging until needed.  It is now ready for pounding.

In a Nutshell...
*         Be sure your fabric has no wrinkles before you hammer.
*         Use wooden cutting board covered with double layer of paper towel.  Position fabric or paper over it and position plants where you want them.  Pounding one flower/leaf at a time gives best results.
*         Check for bugs and dirt before pounding.
*         Put another paper towel over the flower to cover it and pound, OR (my favorite technique) cover each flower/leaf with scotch tape and then hammer gently but thoroughly.
*         Re-adjust the absorbency level, if needed, by adding or taking away paper towels.
*         When you think you’re done, check the underside of the project fabric or paper to see if you’ve missed any spots.  Re-hammer as necessary.
*         Remove cover material and plant pieces, taking care not to smear the fabric as you brush away the bits of plant.  Using tape helps remove plant pieces.
*         When the dye from the flowers is completely dry, you may lightly brush any dried flower pieces from your cloth or use the sticky side of a piece of take to clean up any loose odds and ends from your project.
*         Set the flower designs by pressing with an iron, using the proper temperature for your fabric.  Keep iron on each part of the image for about 45 to 60 seconds.  Be very careful not to scorch fabric.
*         To duplicate your image onto paper or cards or fabric or to iron-on transfers, you can use a copy machine or scanner.  

For more ideas on flower pounding, you may enjoy the following links.


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