Thursday, January 31, 2013

From ice skates to golf skirts...

 The new ice skates arrived all pink and white as promised, and my lil Peach is just thrilled with them.  She is learning to balance and glide -- little by little, step by step.  It's been fun watching her.  I am gaining more strength and ability on my skates too, but I must admit that I fell twice yesterday.  The ice had a great crack and a punky spot where my skates caught and tripped me up.  No big deal, just a slight ankle bruise that will look terrific with my golf skirt.

Yep, I said golf skirt.  Hubs and I are flying out tomorrow to Arizona to watch our youngest son play in his first college golf tournament of the season.  It should be fun!  I love walking on golf courses.  When a girl goes from dry prairie to a lush golf course, it's such a treat.  The green grass, the flowers and beautiful landscapes make it a pleasure to chase a little white ball around.   I don't golf.  I have.  I can.  But I don't.  I get enough golf talking, golf walking and golf watching to satisfy any desire to golf, but I do like wearing the clothes that go along with golf.  I especially like skirts and T-shirts.  That's what I've got packed to wear on the course, but I can't go without jeans and boots to wear on the plane, to wear bumming around, and for driving home in the truck.  Our ThirdBorn bought a Chevy truck for his construction job, and we're driving it the 20 hours home.  It'll be fun to see country we've never been through before on wheels.  See ya in a week!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday pancakes and branding the sheep...

 I love pancakes.  When I was a girl, we had pancakes almost every single Sunday.  At thirteen years old, I could eat eight large pancakes along with bacon, sausage, and an egg on the side.  I think I'm a pretty good pancake critic so when I found this recipe for Easy Almond Flour Pancakes over at Wellness Mama's, I wanted to give it a try.  As you remember, Hubs and I have been trying hard to eat smarter and reduce carbs in our diet.  Since this pancake recipe is made from almond flour, the carb count is low and the protein count is high.  I made Almond Pancakes this morning, slightly tweaking the original recipe and serving them with butter and maple syrup.  We both loved them -- 2 thumbs up!  They'd make delicious snacks, and what a great way to get more protein and nutrition into the kiddos at breakfast!

Almond Meal/Flour Pancakes
(revised from the original)
Serves 4

  • 1.5 cups almond meal/flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 3 eggs, beaten to fluffy
  • tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2  tsp. sugar (opt. for browning)
  • 1 cup of water or milk (or slightly less to desired thickness)
  • Optional: spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla, blueberries or other flavors
  1. In a medium bowl, beat eggs until fluffy first.  Then add all ingredients using a hand blender or immersion blender until batter is a pourable consistency.
  2. Make one test pancake to check for desired thickness and texture.
  3. Cook all pancakes on a griddle or in a large pan for approximately 2-3 minutes per side until bubbles form and both sides are golden brown.
  4. Enjoy!
** 327 Calories per serving (serves 4), 15.7 g. protein, 25 g. fat, 12.9 g. carb (if made with 2% milk) 

"Don't you love this new red shade?  It looks good on my lips too!"
After our delicious pancake breakfast, we decided to go brand and pour the sheep.  It's supposed to get snowy and cold after tonight so Hubs thought it best to get this job done today before the sheep got wet.  Since shearing their wool off yesterday, the sheep no longer carry our mark so it's important for us to get them branded right away.  The brands are made with sheep paint which is specifically engineered to stay on the wool and yet wash out when the wool is cleaned and processed.  Our brand is lazy YJ and we always use red paint.

"NumberOneSon did a much better job on your brand than he did on mine, Hilda!"

When we "pour" the sheep or cattle, it means that we apply a dose of liquid insecticide on their backs which takes care of parasites that are specific to that animal.  We always pour the sheep right after shearing.  After the work was done, we sorted the ewe lambs and bucks away from the older ewes that will lamb in about ten days.  The mature ewes stayed in the pasture close by the lambing barn and the others went out to another pasture since they won't lamb until May.

It feels good to have the sheep all worked and taken care ofThis week we'll set up the barn with jugs (small wooden pens) for lambing.  It won't be long now before the little lambs start coming.

167 ewes ready to lamb at the barn.
105 ewe lambs and 8 bucks at Buck Pasture.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shearing (or bare naked sheep)...

 Here's one of the girls fully fleeced and fluffy.
  Look at that long staple.

 Going up the chute and into the shearing trailer.

 This is Kerry.
He's originally from New Zealand
but has been living in Wyoming for a lot of years. 
He's 72 and still shearing sheep like a young man!

 He's got style.

 A lovely thick fleece, all in one piece,
and no nicks or cuts on the sheep is the goal.

 The skirters throw the fleeces over a rotating table and pick off the "bellies" which are the undesirable pieces from the underside of the sheep.  The belly wool is sorted away from the best wool and goes into its own bag since it would take away from the over-all wool quality and price.

 Out they go through the side chute, all bare and white.

 We had a beautiful day for shearing -- 54 degrees F and no wind.  We had a big crew today of 12 men and one woman (who helped skirt wool).  Normally we don't have a shearing crew this size, but since there is a Sheep Shearing Championship at our local stock show, these guys hooked up with our local shearers to get some more practice under their belts just before the big competition.  They really did a beautiful job of shearing for us this year, and the best part is that they are such a great bunch of men to boot!

Outstanding in their field!

The crew sheared 295 head, counting bucks double because they are twice the size of the ewes.  They got the job done in short order from 7:30 a.m. till 11:30.  We made seven full bales of wool and one bale of belly wool.  This will go to the local wool warehouse to be sold on Monday.  One of the ladies who works in the wool house told me that our wool is on special request by a woman in Nebraska who spins her own wool into yarn and things.  I'd like to meet her one day and see what she's making with our sheep's wool. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ranch ice skating...

 Oh happy day!  Finally, Peach and I dug out the old ice skates from the crawl space and worked them over a little bit.  She had spotted them when we were digging out Christmas decorations and has been asking and asking when we could skate on the pond.  Today was the day.  The smallest pair of skates we have were too large for her, but I added a felt liner, put some stuffing in the toe, and put an extra pair of socks on her feet to take up more space in the over-sized skates.  I suppose it helped some, but too big is too big.  Still, we had a good time despite the slips and falls.  

Hubby took the tractor and scraped some of the snow off the ice, but he could only reach as far out as his farmhand could telescope out so the rest of the shoveling had to be done by hand with a snow shovel.  It's a good way to begin balancing on skates.

I strapped on my own ice skates and clunked around a little while before I could smoothly glide across the ice.  "Smooth gliding" is stretching the ice skating facts a wee bit since stock pond ice is never smooth, and the first time out on the ice for a 50 year-old grammy is anything but smooth gliding.  I did get better and even pulled the girls around in the sled.   

Toodles didn't officially skate, but she did slide around on her boots.  She has a very good attitude about falling on the ice.
When life causes you to slip and fall, 
make snow angels!

After the girls went down for their afternoon nap, I decided to do some hunting on the interwebs to see if I could find a pair of ice skates to fit a little girl, and I did.  I ordered them immediately, and now we anxiously await the day when they arrive in the mail.  Aren't these cute?  I wish I had a pair of pink ice skates too.  Today finally turned warmish so we thought we could actually enjoy playing outdoors.  Are you playing outside this winter?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Woollies and winter blooms...

(Toodles loves to feed sheep alfalfa cake from her hand.)

The sheep are nearing the end of wearing their thick winter fleeces.  Next week Monday, we have them scheduled for shearing.  The woollies are sure going to feel the cold then, but it's important to us to shear them before they begin lambing.  It's difficult for baby lambs to find their milk when they have to nuzzle through a lot of wool.   I was up at the sheep barn a couple days ago and took the Star down from its Christmas position and wired it to the wall inside.  I was thinking about how very soon this barn would become my second home.  Not a home, really, but a place where I will be spending a lot of time every day, keeping an eye on the sheep and helping with the lambs.  I can't wait!  February 10th is the approximate due date for the lambies to begin dropping.   

I just finished a great little book called The Shorn Lamb by Hughie Call.  The author writes from experience as she spent years with her husband on their Montana ranch.  This story is about a young widow who is trying to keep her husband's sheep ranch running.  Oh the challenges she faces!  The Golden Fleece is another of her novels I enjoyed a few years back.


The laundry room "greenhouse" is bursting with buds.  The Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-Easter Cactus is still pushing out blooms and now the orchid (above) is sending out shoots.  I don't know how long it will take to be in full blossom, but I'm hoping for lovely orchids by Easter!  Is it too much to ask?  Maybe, but I'll take orchids whenever they come.  I'm so glad for these small miracles that bless my heart during the frigid winter days.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Western sweater find...

You can find these vintage Miller brand western sweaters in our parts now and then, sometimes at ranch auctions, but rarely at the local thrift stores.  I passed on a similar sweater at a yard sale because I wasn't as wild about the horses on it, but this one I snatched right up.  I like the traditional western yoke in front and back, the zip front, and the cowl neck.  This sweater went through the wash beautifully since it's 100% acrylic, and I know it's going to keep me nice and cozy all winter long.  A five buck bargain --YeeHa!

You might wonder about the skull on the mantel.  It's a cow head (not a bull) from our herd a few years back.  Hereford, of course.  A work of art to me.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fiddling with sourdough...

I have always loved baking bread and I've been doing it since I got married some 31 years ago.  Bread is always a challenge because it changes with its environment.  A hot, sunny day always seems to bring good results to my baking, but a humid, cool day can slow the rising process.  Ingredients can make or break a batch of bread -- inactive yeast, poor quality flour and the water temperature can all gravely affect bread results.  The best advice for successful bread baking is practice, practice, practice.

My newest bread baking challenge is to try my hands at making sourdough wheat bread.  We've been shying away from breads lately in our diet, but I've been reading that whole grain breads that are fermented, so to speak, in sourdough yeast mixtures are far healthier and more digestible than other whole grain breads because the sourdough yeasts break down the grain better for our body's use.  You might like this simple article and recipe  that explains it.

For the past couple weeks, I've been growing a sourdough starter on my kitchen counter.  Every 24 hours or so, I feed it with a little more water and a little more flour so that it doesn't quit bubbling and fermenting.  Last night I poured out a cup of the starter and stirred in a little flour and water to make a sponge.  It sat covered on the counter over night and today I made a dough and by late afternoon a nice, round loaf of "mostly" whole wheat bread popped out of the oven!  I say "mostly" because my actual starter is made with unbleached flour, not whole wheat.  I am not worried about being a whole wheat purist at the moment, but instead, I want to get a good quality, delicious tasting loaf that is "mostly" healthy.  I didn't really use a recipe today, but I went by feel.  The basic ingredients were:  the sourdough starter, flour, water, sea salt, a dab of honey, and a little dob of butter.  The "feel" comes from working the ingredients together and allowing it to sit, ferment, rise several times, and then I knead it for the right consistency and texture.  I also learned a little trick for the home baker from this video, Tartine Bread.  A restaurant baker teaches us to bake our bread, after the last rise, in a Dutch oven.  I used my cast iron Dutch oven and heated it in the oven for about 30 minutes at 450* F.  Then I gently dropped my bread dough in, slit the top of the raised dough, added the lid, and slid it back into the oven for a half hour.  After the 30 minutes went by, I removed the lid of the Dutch oven and allowed it to bake another 15 minutes or so until the crust was dark brown.  It worked like a charm!  The only thing I probably should have done was to lightly sprinkle the bottom of the pan with corn meal.  The bottom of the crust got a little too dark, but honestly, it still tasted great! 

There are all kinds of sourdough recipes out there, and I plan to fiddle around making lots of variations.  One thing I can't wait to make is a Swedish crispbread called Knäckebröd.  In the USA we can buy it as Wasa crispbread.  I had my first Wasa this week when we went traveling across South Dakota delivering bulls.   We took our cooler with food and drink, but I wanted an easy-to-take bread that would be substantial to eat, healthy, and low calorie.  Wasa crispbread was just the ticket!  It is so delicious, especially when stacked with good cheese and a thin slice of meat.  When we got home, I was anxious to find a way to make my own crispbread (because I'm weird that way) and sure enough, I found some recipes online.  Basically, it's rye sourdough bread that is rolled flat with a knobbed rolling pin like this one and then baked and allowed to cool and dry out completely before storing.  I ordered one of those fancy Swedish rolling pins, and now I'm just waiting for it to arrive so I can experiment.  I think the rolling pin will work well for making thin-and-crispy pizza crusts too.  Below is a video of Jamie Oliver learning to make crispbread from a Swedish bakery owner.  It appears quite simple to make, and the video is fun to watch.  Do you like to experiment with bread?  Do tell!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Start where you are...

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." ~ Arthur Ashe
 (Don't you love this quote?  I'm writing it down.)

It's the fourth day of the new year.  I know this because I've got the calendar from the butcher shop covering up my beautiful 2012 Marjolein Bastin calendar.  The new calendar I ordered from Amazon is not here yet, so I'm improvising.  For now, the pages are blank minus a couple grandma days.  I rather like the feeling of blank space.  It's freeing, refreshing, and full of possibilities.

I'm not a resolution person.  I'm not a theme person or one who chooses a word for the year.  I wish I was, but that's just not me, really.  I do have some thoughts about what I'd like to do in the year to come.  I read the Susan Branch post, The Care and Feeding of Dreams, and I realize that I like her approach to living life fully whether that means treating yourself to the occasional bubble bath & book, breakfast in bed, daily walks, or by setting Big Dream Goals like writing a book, one little page at a time.   As a fifty year-old lady with grown children and four grandchildren, it has become easy to leave dreams behind and focus mainly on "the here and now."  For me, the here and now is very important, but having a few dreams to feed keeps the soul awake and energized and gives me something creative to look forward to.

I haven't officially written down any of my projects or any of my dreams either, but I'm thinking about lots of things.  Since October, Hubby and I have been eating better and we've both dropped quite a bit of weight.  We feel good and more ambitious and fit, even though we both have 50 year- old ranch-worn bodies that will never look like they once did at 30 years old.  Still, we are planning to press on with a lifestyle of healthy eating.  I've been researching Clean Eating which includes, in a nutshell, eating a variety of whole foods and eliminating most processed foods.  This is mainly what we've evolved into.  If you are what you eat, then we've gone from Mr. Pop & Candy and Mrs. Chip & Dip and transformed into Mr. Steak & Salad and Mrs.Veggie Omlet.  Food tastes better to us now, and our tastes in food have changed dramatically.  I'm looking at sourdough recipes and experimenting with those.  The summer garden will be fun as always.  I'm anticipating new ways to feed the dream of healthy bodies with new whole food recipes this year.  Check out these "clean" Budget Recipes.

Our newest grandbaby, Ruth., is such a good one!  She's nursing and pooping and sleeping just like newborns are supposed to do, and she's such a pretty lil thing.  I was at her house yesterday, and I got to talk to her and tell her how wonderful she is.  She was wide-eyed and alert as she tried to focus on her granny's voice and face.  Her big sister and I had lots of fun looking at the new Eye Spy book and singing songs before nap time.  The neighbor grandgirls spent the night with us a couple days ago and even though they were just recovering from a nasty cold/flu bug, we had a good time dancing to Elizabeth Mitchell songs and  singing Car Car, You are My Sunshine, and Little Sack of Sugar.  What I love about having my grandchildren nearby is that one of my biggest dreams of being a Grandma has come true, and the best part is that we are so close.  I feed the Grandma Dream often and much.

I want to make a baby quilt for Ruth, and so I'm looking around for just the right quilt pattern with lots of color and interest for her.  Miss Bee had her baby quilt out when I was there and we had such fun pointing out all the butterflies, bees, circles and flowers that make up her own bright blankie.  I saw the niftiest idea for an Eye Spy Quilt where you fussy-cut some of the blocks or pieces to include images like dogs, bunnies, flowers and such things that would catch the eye.  I like that.

Because I really love to embroider, I'm planning to always have a project going, even if it is just tea towels.  This Christmas it was nice to have a stash of handmade tea towels at-the-ready to give as gifts, and I want to continue keeping a stash for gift-giving anytime.  I always feel like I give a little piece of myself when I give a handmade embroidery.  The time and joy I put into it is part of the gift.  Oh, that reminds me of the funniest little sew-on labels that I thought would be fun to sew on handmade gifts.  The one I especially like says:  THIS TOOK FOREVER.  How's that for funny and true?

Blogging will stay on my list of things I want to do.  I enjoy having a journal of my days, and I like having a place to share ideas and things that I like to ranching.  We will be moving into Lambing Season very soon.  February 10th or so will be the starting date for new lambs to arrive, but before that we will get the sheep sheared and the shed set up for the big event.  It is the Kick-Off Event for the year because right after that, there are heifers to calve and then the cows, and the year is on a big roll because there's no stopping the rest of the events that follow.  That's the thing I love about ranching -- there's always something new coming up.  It's mostly the same stuff, but it's never dull.  There is a steady rhythm to it and yet there is anticipation and excitement.

I think I need to find a pretty notebook so that I can start writing down a few thoughts and ideas, some dreams and projects, and maybe add some encouraging words and pictures.  It's good place for me to start -- having a spot to at least write things down and begin.  I hope your year is beginning well, young as it is.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Something new...

Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder the things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert,
The beasts of the field will glorify Me;
The jackals and the ostriches;
Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.
The people who I formed for Myself
Will declare My praise.

~Isaiah 43:18-21

In the new year, Lord, do something new in me.  Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.  Make me aware:   help my eyes to see the work of Your Hands, my ears to hear You, my mouth to drink from your River.  I don't want to miss it.   You are my Lord, my God, my Emmanuel.


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