Friday, August 31, 2012

His & Hers pizza...

 I made bread today -- The Four Seeded Bread with only Three Seeds -- and since I had a small glob of dough left over that was not big enough for a loaf, I decided to roll it out and make a pizza crust for supper tonight.  Hubby loves his meat pizza in the traditional manner with tomato sauce, pepperoni, hamburger, and cheese.  I like it too, but since the tomatoes are ripening, I chose to make myself a girly pizza.

For my pizza, I spread a little butter on the partly-prebaked crust and sprinkled it with garlic powder.  Then I added fresh Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.  I sprinkled both pizzas with an Italian dried herb mix and then topped mine with thinly sliced tomatoes, salt and fresh cracked pepper.  The pizzas went into the ovenat 400*  for about 9-10 minutes until they were bubbly.  After I pulled the pizzas out, I added fresh basil to my side.  Yummy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Blowin' in the wind....

I've been thinking a lot about the wind lately.  When you live on the prairie, you do that.  There's so little that stands in the way of the wind that one has to take account of it every single day.  So many, many things depend on the wind and the direction it's coming from.  It was said that when we had a strong east wind, it meant that there was a storm on the way, but this year that old belief has come to naught.   There was hardly a storm at all no matter the wind direction, and we didn't lack for wind.

Wind is what took a lightning strike in our north pasture and blew it up into a prairie fire that blazed for seven miles.  Neighbors from upwind and downwind where there ready to take action.  Thankfully, we did get a rain that day that took the fire down almost entirely.  

There was a wind storm that blew over us a week or so after the fire happened, and it was such a gift.  As we watched dust and tree limbs blowing, we saw something else which looked like another fire had started.  It looked a lot like smoke, but what was blowing in the wind was soot from the fire.  All that smelly, dirty, oily stuff blew from the pastures to Who Knows Where, and gave us a cleaner place to start fencing on this summer.  The men were dreading going out there to repair and rebuild fence, but now the range is sort of clean and it's even sprouting some green grass.

When you live on a ranch and you're out looking for livestock, it is most likely that you will find them upwind on a hot summer day.  Sheep and cattle prefer to walk into the wind to stay cool rather than walking with the wind.  Sheep also prefer to sleep on the highest places as a means of protection to the herd so they can catch the scent of predators in the wind and so they see everything below them. Aren't they smart?  It is said that livestock can smell water so wind again is important when taking young livestock to new pastures, however we always take them to water so they can figure it out a little better.

We plant shelter belts to protect our homes and buildings from wind and to protect livestock from high winds and snow.  The trees provide shelter against the prevailing northwest winds, but can also protect from easterly winds depending on which side of the trees you are.

Closer to home, I am constantly checking the wind when I hang out the laundry.  A few days ago, NumberOneSon shot a skunk just north of our house, and even though he took it away, the odor lingered enough that I hesitated to hang my clothes on the line.  I waited until the wind switched from the north to the west and managed to keep the stink off the fresh, clean clothes.  I also take note of the wind direction when deciding which line I will begin hanging the clothes from first; I always want to pin clothes to the downwind line so I'm don't have clothes flapping me in the face when I pin them up.  The same rules apply when I take the laundry down. I try not to hang clothes out when I know the men are going to be driving on the road next to the house because of the dust. I really don't have set rules about hanging clothes, but it's something that just comes naturally when a girl's got to battle the wind all the time. 

Setting sprinklers has a wind factor too.  Most of the time, I don't water on windy days since the majority of the water is apt to evaporate rather than soak in.  If I do water on a windy day I always set sprinklers upwind so the majority of the water goes onto the flower bed or veggie patch or whatever it is that I'm sprinkling. 

The mailbox is another place where a prairie savage like me has to consider the wind.  When I set letters in the box to be mailed, I have to think about our mailman opening the box and the wind whipping inside there.  Most of the time before I ever put the flag up, I set a rock on the mail because so often when you open a mail box that is located on a hill, the wind will catch the letters and bills and it'll fly right out of there!  I've chased a few pieces of mail down and it's a challenge.  I wonder if my mailman is glad that I keep a rock in the mailbox?

In the fall when the leaves are coming off the trees and it looks like a dump truck just tipped a one ton load of leaves in my yard, I don't worry too much about raking because I know sooner or later the wind will whisk them away!  Wintertime we really have to pay attention to winds.  Winds with cold and snow can freeze up water tanks and can send livestock drifting with the winds. 

Last week we pregnancy tested 199 heifers.  I wanted a record of it here in my journal.  It really doesn't have anything to do with the wind because we always work livestock in the barn.  But then again, it does.  We set up the corrals and barn that way so we don't have to always fight the wind, rain, snow and sun whenever we have to pregnancy test or brand or weigh bulls or any number of things.  Our lives really are built so much around the weather.

Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.   ~Arthur Golden

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Refrigerator pickles anyone?

I received this recipe 31+ years ago from my high school chorus teacher, Mrs. Mollet.  Everyone who attended my bridal shower was asked to bring a couple favorite recipes to share, and this one has stayed in my recipe box all these years, standing the true test of time and approval. The frig pickles seem to last "forever" and you can reboil the brine and pour it over the next batch of fresh veggies you wish to pickle.  These have a bread & butter pickle flavor, but you could add some fresh dill heads to your jar for a dill flavored pickle.  Either way, they are crispy and delicious and so pretty in the jar or on the plate.  Change up the veggies any way you like and enjoy!

Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

4 c. sugar
4 c. vinegar
1/2 c. plain salt (not iodized)
1 1/2 t. mustard seed
1 1/2 t. celery seed
1 t. turmeric (opt.)
6-7 pepper corns
Bring to a boil and pour over...
1 gallon combined:  2-3 cloves garlic, sliced cucumbers, onion, peppers, carrots, green beans, or any other garden veggies you prefer.  Allow to cool on counter and then refrigerate.  Allow to sit 24 hours before eating.  Lasts a long time under refrigeration.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Peach pies and love go together...

 When I make pies, I think about the people I'm making them for, do you?  I love to see smiling faces when I announce after supper, "Who wants pie?"   When I'm rolling out pie dough, I don't usually make just one pie because my pie crust recipe makes enough for seven shells so I always roll it all out and lay each crust into pie plates whether I make them up into pies or not.  I use what I need and freeze the rest.  I stack the unbaked crusts between wax paper and then wrap them up in grocery bags before I put them in the freezer.  It sure is handy to go grab a frozen pie shell when I want to whack up a pie or two in a hurry.

 Today I made two fresh peach pies.  To me, there is nothing like the first fresh peach pie and nothing like a Colorado peach pie for deep satisfaction and joy.  We were supposed to have our vet and his helper come pregnancy test the heifers today, but they had truck problems and got delayed so we'll do that job tomorrow,

but for the now, Hubs and I will eat a slice of peach pie and celebrate our special day.  Today is our anniversary -- 31 one years and still in love.  Love and peach pies go together.  (He's my peach after all.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Simple Things...

 ~A double-yolk pullet egg!
~Cool nights for sleeping and cool mornings for gardening.
~Painting rocks with Peach & Toodles.
Holding hands with Bee and hearing her "amen" at the end of a prayer.

~ Peeking under the straw of the potato patch, I discovered potatoes!
~Summer veggie skillet dish:  zucchini, peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes sauteed together with Swiss cheese melted over top.
~Working the ewes and moving them out to the hayfield stubble to fatten them up before breeding.
~Going back to my old ways of leaving the clothespins on the clothesline so I don't have to take the pin bag back and forth. The Good ol' Lazy Homemaker is back!  Clothespin bags are cute, but for me, impractical.

~Fresh Colorado peaches are here!  Yum. I'll be making pies and canning some of these beauties tomorrow.
~An afternoon visit with my parents.
~Finished a good, good book, Mrs. Mike.
~Rose embroidery stitching.
~Nighthawks flying overhead in the evening.
~Bats too.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Flowers in the veggie patch...

 Do you plant a few flowers in your vegetable garden?
I always put some marigolds in amongst the tomatoes, and my dear mother-in-law taught me to plant a row of gladiola bulbs in the veggie patch.  This summer I have some volunteer sunflowers that I let grow up in the onions.

There's just something magical in a few bright orange marigolds
 peeking out here and there
 or towering gladiola stalks lording their beauty
 over mounds of green vegetables.

For mine is just a little old-fashioned garden
where the flowers come together 
to praise the Lord 
and teach all who look upon them
to do likewise.
~Celia Thaxter

If you would like to read some of the most beautiful words about flowers and gardens, you'll be delighted with  An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ship-shape sheep and checking cattle...

 It's shipping day for the lambs.  We gathered them all up and sorted the wethers (sheep steers) from the ewes.  The wethers were shipped to town via horse trailers today.  When the guys unloaded them they were weighed at the sale barn averaging a hefty 123 lbs. per lamb which was really terrific.  They were beautiful, and the sorter at the sheep barn was impressed.  He said they were the prettiest sheep he had seen so far this year.  We decided not to ship the ewe lambs, but instead, we will wait on them for a few weeks and decide how many to sell and how many to keep and add into the herd.

 We de-wormed the remaining lambs and then weaned the May lambs from their mothers. 

Hubs is counting sheep.
We sorted the bucks (above) and sold the undesirable fellows along with a few cull ewes.

 It's a good day when we can evaluate our herd and spend some time appreciating the lamb crop which has grown and flourished so well despite the hot, dry conditions this summer. 
After we had the wethers loaded, the guys left for the sale barn in horse trailers while I stayed home and checked the cows.  This is buggy is what we drive out in the pastures -- a Polaris Ranger.  It's easy on the grass and it can go anywhere.  We check cows every day and make sure that their water tanks are flowing and that the herd bulls are healthy and doing their job.  We also look for bogged cows or calves or for any problems that might happen on the range.

There's the bully right in the middle of this photo.  He's not too busy on this cool, cloudy day and most of the cows and calves are lying around while some of them quietly graze.  We had a lovely rain over the weekend.  On Saturday night we tallied up 5/10 inch of rain and then on Monday night we measured 6/10 inch of rain.  The amount may seem small to some of you, but to us, it is a big blessing.  The grass is washed clean and it's a little softer to eat, there are puddles of fresh water to drink, and the dust isn't blowing in the pastures.  It's so refreshing.

The range has a lot of healthy sagebrush growing, but there's a lot of good grass in between and in the low places.  There is just something about the smell of sagebrush that I love.  I think it's because I like it out on the range watching contented cows and calves.

Isn't she a beaut?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

She said, "Yes!"

We just got the news that SecondSon is engaged!  We are so happy for the two of them.
In honor of their engagement, "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cloudy day = Donut day...

 The Littlest Billy Goat's Gruff has returned home today for a weekend visit before he drives away to Tucson to go back to college.  I decided that since it's drizzly, cloudy, and even a wee bit rainy here, it's a perfect day for a Donut Day!
Raised, glazed donuts.

 My donuts aren't traditional.  
They're puffy, long donuts. 
 Easy to cut, easy to turn, easy to eat.  
I wouldn't want to make it difficult you know.

 Afternoon Tea and Donut!

The End.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Northern Flicker baby...

 I noticed a few odd holes in the lawn and in the garden path this morning and wondered what critter made them.  I didn't know who the culprit was until this afternoon when I spied this li'l fella drilling with his handy woodpecker beak.  This is a young Northern Flicker (red shafted).  The adult flickers have a nice solid black crest across the breast, but this guy still has his baby speckles.

 Do you like the red mustache?

 I'm thinking about drilling for.... ANTS!

 Drill baby drill!

 Who me?


Thursday, August 09, 2012


One of the kids embroidered this bunny tea towel for me a long time ago.

It's always exciting to me when the pullets start to lay.  I didn't expect them to start laying until the end of August or first of September, but there were two eggs in the nests today.  See the two little white ones side by side?  It's a wonder the hens lay at all with the critters that have been milling around the coop each evening.  Every night when I go out to shut the door on the coop, I see several skunks or raccoons.  Last night I opened the door to the granary to fetch some laying pellets and there was a thumping and then a raccoon face was peeking out at me from the corn bin.  I shut the door on him and called for Number1Son to bring a gun.  He said there were three coon in there after all. Evidently they are climbing in through the opening on the roof.  I just hope they keep eating corn and don't get a taste for fresh chicken anytime soon.  I've got to be very diligent about shutting the coop door before dark each night or they'll find their way in to the hens next.

August is already whizzing by, isn't it?  This past Monday FourthChild left his job here on the ranch and went back to college where he will be a senior RA for a dorm.  He's helping the staff to get ready for the residents that will be arriving very soon.  He was excited to get going and I was happy for him, but I'll admit, I shed a few tears after he hugged me good bye and drove away.  He's not even very far away from us -- just an hour and a half -- but we've had a fun summer together and now it's all done.  This is likely his last summer at home as he will be graduating in the spring and hopefully he'll find a job.   The BabyoftheFamily has just a few more days before he takes off to Tucson for another year of college there.  He'll spend the weekend with us and then he is away. Back to just the two of us again.  It is as it should be.  I'm glad our kids want to go make their way in the Great Big World, but I can't help missing them a little bit.  I love them after all.

I've been spending some time at the sewing machine these past couple afternoons.  It's been fun.  I made a sun dress for Miss Bee and a top for myself.  It's been a long time since I've sewn clothes for myself, but this was an easy pattern to make.  It's New Look 6871.  No buttons or snaps or zippers.  It turned out cute, but it seems a smidgen wide so I may give it away to OnlyDaughter who is now 20 weeks pregnant.  She might be able to wear it through August and September.  The next time I make this top, I will use a cotton voile so it's a little bit more flowy and light.

We had locally grown corn-on-the-cob tonight.  What a treat!  I made a Zucchini-Parmesan Casserole with zukes and onions from the garden and we cooked burgers on the grill to go along with the corn.  Sometimes we have Just Corn Suppers, but we had the neighbors over and I thought it best to make a full supper.  DIL brought the dessert -- Lava Cake (scrumptch!).  The garden is coming along.  The cucumbers are setting on and I'm picking a ripe tomato every other day or so.  You know how it goes -- pretty soon, all-at-once, everything is ripe and the entire garden needs picking!  I hope you're enjoying what August is bringing you.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Fire and rain...

What we fear when a storm cloud appears, happened yesterday.  Lightning was flashing from dry clouds and hit several times on our range.  The guys noticed the smoke which seemed small at the time but as they approached, the high winds fanned the flames and in no time it was a raging prairie fire.  Within minutes from the time they left the house, I got the word on the two-way radio to call for help. 
In our country, ranchers are volunteer firefighters too.  We have a community fire department and plenty of good equipment that is placed strategically with ranchers in the area.  At our ranch we have a 300 gallon pumper and a tender truck that holds 1000 gallons of water that is meant to refill sprayers when they are empty but can also be used to fight fire.  At 4:30 yesterday afternoon our men went out with sprayers and started in fighting fire and as the minutes and hours ticked by, one by one, our neighbors showed up with their pumpers and sprayers.  You can't imagine the feeling of seeing help on the way when your ranch is burning -- good neighbors.

I was driving the Ranger (4WD) out to the fire to get NumberOneSon and he was going to go back to get the tractor to plow a fire line, but by the time I got there they realized there was no way  they were going to get ahead of the fire with a tractor/disc combination so that idea was abandoned.  We've had fire here before, but I have never seen anything like this prairie fire.  The winds were pushing the fire onward and the whole horizon was lit up like an orangey-red sunset, but it was fire.  All I could do was to pray to God for help.

The men sprayed down the edges where they could reach and the fire ran on ahead with the wind through pasture after pasture paying no mind to fences.  I went back to help direct more trucks up to the fire, and as I was taking one rancher up, a big crack of thunder and lightning hit and it began to pour.  Rain!  Blessed rain!  We stopped and radio'd up to the guys and they said they were getting rain too but they weren't sure how long it would last.  We drove up to the corner gate and waited, but it was so muddy we felt it best to wait until they called us up.  It kept raining and all the firefighters came back to the gate and we drove back home.   We were all so thankful.  Hubs said, "There is no way we could have caught that fire.  It would have burned to the highway without the rain."

As the men stood around pick-ups discussing what they had just been through, a plane flew over.  It was a fire jumping plane.  Our local fire chief recognized it, and all of them watched the plane circle the fire again and again.  The chief turned his radio back on and he heard them say that the fire had reignited on the north side.  The wind had changed and blew from the east.  Where the rain had not fallen, the fire had re-emerged and  the men hustled back to the line to fight on.  The good thing was that they were present and ready to go. The BLM firefighters showed up and came to sit on the fire site and watch it through the night.  The majority of the land that burned was BLM lease and so they came to help with it and make sure it stayed contained.

This morning Hubs and I went out to look things over in the daylight and to bring hot coffee to those left watching the fire.  Ash, soot and remnants of sagebrush remained along with needle-less cacti and a few sturdy fence posts.  The cows and sheep that were out in the pastures were fine.  They evidently found their way to safety so there was no loss of livestock.  Five trucks and their men stayed on site all day today and left this evening as they felt confident the fire was totally contained.  The state department flew down to measure the area of the fire and their figures were:  1008 acres burned within a 14 mile perimeter.  When we drive out into the pasture now, I think, "This could happen again.  Anywhere, anytime."  On a positive note, with a little rain this fall we hope to see a lovely green pasture come back.  Fire so often improves the land it burns like nothing else can.  This evening I heard on the radio that a prairie wildfire has broken out in Oklahoma.  My heart aches for them.  God, be their help and strength, and please send them rain.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

How to walk...

I thought I knew how to walk.  After all, I've been walking since I was a year old.  I took up walking in earnest for fitness and for my sanity when I was pregnant with OnlyDaughter back in 1985-86 and I've been walking 2+ miles almost daily ever since. Originally I started walking for my health, but as it turns out, I primarily walk for my mind and spirit.  I found that taking a half hour or so each day to walk gave me time to pray, to think my own thoughts, to observe nature, or just to allow my mind to rest, and all while my body was moving.  If you have a somewhat ADD personality like me, you will understand that movement is a good thing for the brain and spirit.  

Now that I'm an old  a more mature woman, I am feeling the results of poor walking techniques and poor footwear.  I am certain that a lot of my foot troubles come from the wear and tear that comes about after  years of foot-pounding down gravel roads, through pastures and clomping around in boots at the barn, and from wearing what I now think of as silly or impractical (but oh so beautiful) shoes.  After doing some research on proper form for walking, I am convinced that I can improve my walking skills measurably and perhaps relieve some of the foot, knee, leg, and hip pain that I experience on occasion. 

One way that I am trying to improve the strength of my feet is to go barefoot a lot more.  When you think about it, when we were babies learning to walk, we walked barefoot in our homes or in the soft grass of our backyard.  Then we moved out onto the cement sidewalk and trekked over gravel and rocks and never blinked an eye, but as we grew up, our parents thought it best to civilize us -- to put proper shoes on our feet.  And what kind of shoes did we wear?  The typical hard-soled, stiff things that made us have to learn to walk all over again.  And so the trouble began.  We continue to conform our feet to our shoes rather than letting our feet walk like feet.  I've heard it compared to wearing a cast.  I don't know about you, but I have always preferred to walk around the house and yard with bare feet, but that is where it ends.  It's hard walking down the gravel road or out in the corrals with bare feet.

Have you heard about the new rage in running -- barefoot running?   I am not into ANY kind of running, but some runners are finding that running "nearly barefoot" strengthens the feet, legs, hips, and core as God and nature intended.  From what I understand, when you walk or run barefoot you step more gently and flex your foot a lot more.  Your foot doesn't land hard on your heel as it does with a traditional padded heel shoe, and you tend to flex the arch and toes much more when running and walking because that's what arches and toes naturally do when they are not confined to stiff shoes.  The signature shoe of  barefoot running is the Vibram 5 Fingers.  It looks like a glove for the foot and the sole is so thin that it gives the feeling of running barefoot.  Since the shoe's first appearance, the barefoot running shoe market has exploded and there are now a lot more choices to be had.

After reading a lot of material online, I decided to take an inventory of the shoes I own.  My mission was to determine which shoes had the flexibility in the arch I need to promote a barefoot type experience when I walk.  Guess what?  I had just ONE pair of shoes that had good flexibility, and those were my Minnetonka Moccasins.  My tennis shoes had very limited flex.  The Birkenstocks, which I mostly wear, had no flex, but in their defense, the foot can rock in the foot bed.  I do have a pair of Merrel boots that I like to wear which were pretty flexy in the arch, but nothing like the moccs.  So...... I decided to do some online shopping.  My nearest runner's store is 120 miles away so I figured if I tried Zappos, which I am apt do do on occasion, I might get lucky and find something without having to drive 240 miles.  The best part about Zappos is that I can send the shoes back postage-paid if they don't work out.  Yay for Zappos!  Here are the shoes I'm trying out:  The Nike Free Run 3 which is not really a barefoot style running shoe, but is SO flexible and light weight that it allows the foot to perform as it should.  The Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove is the other choice I made.  It has a much thinner sole and has extreme flexibility.  For me, the real test will be how they perform on my gravel road where I do most of my walking.  From what I have read about transitioning from traditional walking shoes to minimalist, barefoot-type shoes is that it takes TIME.  The foot has to go through an adjustment period of learning how to walk without a lot of tread and cushioning.  After trying both shoes out, I have chosen the Nike Free Run 3.  These shoes feel like slippers and they are so flexible that after a 2 1/2 mile walk/run (yes, I did run a very little bit) my feet do NOT hurt one little bit.  In fact, they feel terrific!  The only negative I have about these shoes is that rocks get in stuck between the traction because the sole opens up with the foot movement.  Not a problem.  Just flex the sole after you're done wearing them and the rocks fall right out.  LOVE these shoes.  The Merrell was also very comfy and light, and I was thinking about keeping them both, but I decided to send the Merrell Pace Glove back for now with the idea that once I walk for a while in my Nikes, I might transition to the Merrells.

Below I have gathered up some helpful links to articles and videos that I have found very good.  First, this diagram shows you simple posture for good-form walking.

Links I have been reading or watching:

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk.  Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness.  I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.  
~Soren Kierkegaard


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