Friday, January 31, 2014

Art Break: Philip Andreyevich Maliavin

I adore this photo called "Laughing Woman."
 I do the same thing when I laugh so big and hard that
 my lip curls up in a funny way, and I cover my mouth too.

Yes it is!  The colors, the colors excite me.

"Peasant Women"
The depth of color, the faces, wondering 
 where they are and what they are doing.

I hope you enjoyed an art break with the featured artist, Philip Andreyevich Maliavin (1869-1940)  from Russia.  More of his art can be found at It's About Time.  I'm thinking about Russia and the Winter Olympics coming up soon.  I love watching winter sports, and I'm so looking forward to seeing the culture, and people around Sochi.  The best part is I get to watch through the TV, sitting comfortably on my couch with a bowl of popcorn.  Will you be watching the Winter Olympics?
  What are your favorite events?
I like so many.  
To name a few: bobsledding, figure skating, hockey, ski shooting (biathlon).

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Whipped honey...

Do you remember Sue Bee Spun Honey from back in the day -- the milky, smooth honey that you could actually spread on your bread with a knife?  A year or so ago, I was reminiscing about that lovely honey and wondering if I could make a similar product at home with the raw honey I bought from our local bee keeper.  The answer:  Yes!  I found easy-to-follow instructions from Bite my cake and have been making it ever since.

Basically, you start  with raw honey that is crystallized and thick.  Mine looks something like the picture below.  It's fairly yellow and has flecks of bee stuff in it -- wings, legs, pollen, and other goodies that bees carry into the hives.  I take my gallon of raw honey and gently melt the outer edges in a bowl of just-boiled water.  When it has softened up a little and there's some liquified honey around the edges of the container, that's when I pour the whole thing into my stand mixer.  When you pour it from your container into your mixing bowl, you will notice that the majority of the honey is still crystallized.  With whip attachments on, start the mixer and whip that honey for quite some time -- between 15-20 minutes.  The honey will magically turn from yellow to a creamy white.  It's a molecular thing that happens between the crystals and the liquid honey that gives it the spreadable consistency and milky color.

I pour my whipped honey into smaller jars.  Either jelly jars or wide-mouth pint jars work best.  You want to be able to get into the jars easily with a table knife or spoon.  As the honey cools from the whipping process, it will firm up more and become a glorious honey-butter of sorts.  Store your whipped honey in a fairly cool cupboard and it will set up beautifully.

 Whipped honey is so easy to use in comparison to runny-honey.  You can spoon out just a little bit or a lot without all the drippy mess, and you can spread it on bread or toast just as efficiently as you can spread peanut butter.  We absolutely LOVE it.

Today Peach and Toodles were here while their parents went grocery shopping in town with baby brother in tow.  Peach asked if we could have tea and scones after lunch, and that sounded perfectly lovely to me.  I made a pot of Citron Oolong and we had biscuits and honey.  Deeeee-lish!


The shearers were supposed to come tomorrow to shear the sheep, but we had a couple inches of snow overnight and more snow during the day today so the sheep are wet with snowy wool.  We'll have to wait and see if they melt off tomorrow and dry out enough to shear on Saturday.  We're just about 10 days away from having baby lambs!  Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Day by day...

I really have nothing special to post about today.  It's a regular winter day with feeding chores and meals to prepare and cleaning up and keeping warm.  I went feeding with my newest DIL this morning.  I'm going to have to start putting special love-names on my DILs because now I have two of them and I hope that someday down the road, I'll have two more.  Anyway, we girls fed the cows and the sheep together and it was refreshing to me to see my new-to-ranching daughter-in-love learn to appreciate this place in all of its truth.  Ranching is not something you learn over night.  It's not something a person may even like at first.  There are a lot of stinky smells.  There are beautiful births and untimely deaths.  There are biting-cold winter days and sweltering-hot summers and drought.  There is springtime beauty and tragic fall fires.  I've always said that this is a country of extremes.  If a person can accept it for what it is in its simplicity, in its life-and-deathness, in its harshness and in its gentleness, you grow to love it.  All of it.  It's good for me to see it again through new eyes as I once did as a new bride coming to the country, fresh to ranch life.

As for me, the life I live here draws me in to God.  Do you know the old song from the musical, Godspell:  Day by Day?  These few verses are how I really want to live, and I kinda think my world here on the ranch gives me a good chance to do it because I see Him in every single thing, and it makes my heart sing, sing praise to Him who made it and gave it to us.  Do you see Him in your corner of the world too?

Day by day, day by day,
Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray:
To see Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly day by day.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Be joyful...

 My newest embroidery.
It was such fun to do with a variety of stitches and colors.
The pattern is from Nana Company.  There is also a companion blog post that was most helpful.  I kept it beside me as I stitched for reference.

I think it would be fun to make another one with a completely different color scheme even though I really like this one.

Be joyful!

Sunday, January 12, 2014


I've been thinking about the word still.

I captured another jackrabbit on my camera yesterday.  He was still.  He thought I would walk by, I'm sure, but as any wild creature knows, oftentimes when the "enemy" is walking by if the small creature will stay very still and blend in to his surroundings without a single move, the enemy will keep moving and never see him.  As you can see, this jack's camouflage is perfect for winter.  Just enough white, just enough gray, and just enough black on the tips of his ears.  Most  of the time, I don't see jackrabbits until they move from their places.  What a wonderful gift to be so still that the enemy will walk by without noticing you.

"Be still and know that I am God."  ~Psalm 46:10

I love this verse.  It means so many things to me.  If I am still, will the enemy will walk on by me?     When I am still, my senses are piqued.  I can hear clearly.   A flicker taps a beat on a dead tree, the chickadee whistles, a tree creaks in the wind,  the cows move slowly through the snow, the ice heaves on the pond, frost drops from the trees, I hear myself breathe.  When I stand still and look, I see the varied hues of the sky -- soft pink, deep purple, gunmetal gray, bluebird blue.  I see the winter buds on the Elm, the tracks of the grouse.  I see the place where the dog slid down the snowdrift, and I see a jackrabbit -- still as a stone, and I see my breath.

We live on the open prairie where the wind blows most of the time.  When it is still outdoors, we take notice of the change, and immediately we notice when it picks up again.  When I am still, I am anticipating.  I am waiting. Listening.  I'm waiting to hear what the wind of God has to say, waiting to see what God shows me, trying to know Him right where I am in my stillness.   I crave a little chunk of quiet and stillness each day, even if it is just a small bit of time.  It gives me peace and calm and a knowing that God is.  And I need God.  Very much.

What do you notice when you are still?

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Snowshoeing: yesterday & today....

 Yesterday we had heavy fog and hoar frost.  I went feeding and had a tough time finding cows in the fog.  When I got stuck with my 4-wheel drive out of commission, Hubby had a hard time finding me, but all's well that ends well.  My afternoon walk in the woods was very pretty with the frost clinging thick on the branches.  The jackrabbits were out and the dogs were giving them chase.

 Do you see the two jackrabbits in the fog?

 Today we have clear blue skies and bright sunshine that makes my eyes tear up and squinty.  I walked through another shelter belt that had what were like moggles on a downhill ski slope --all naturally created by the wind and snow.  It was challenging and yet fun to walk over them.   A few times I slipped and sort of skied down.

I caught up with the grandgirls who were sledding on a hill nearby and they insisted on going on "an adventure" with me in The Woods.  First we had to trudge through deep snow that gave way under my snowshoes, and since they didn't have any snowshoes, they had to walk behind me in my tracks.  There was a lot of falling down and humphing before we got out of the soft deep snow to the woods where we could walk on top of the hard snow and not have it cave in underfoot.  Then there were lots of smiles and romping.

The thermometer has risen to 40* here today and feels like spring!  Those of you who are experiencing the Arctic Vortex (I think that's a fun name for it) do not be dismayed --  good, warm days are on the way!   I'm expecting my new snow/hiking boots today so I'll give you a review on them after I have worn them few times in the snow and with the snowshoes.  Stay tuned!

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.  ~John Ruskin

Monday, January 06, 2014

My first-of-the-winter snowshoeing excursion...

I didn't go far -- just around the shelter belts and into The Woods.  I climbed over the hard snow drifts in The Woods and didn't sink in at all, but out on the prairie and around the edges of the shelter belts it was much softer and required more energy and leg work.  

Yesterday was a cold, cold, cold day with high winds making wind chill temperatures of -40* or some crazy, incredible thing like that.  I only went out once to tend to the chickens and that was plenty enough time to feel the biting cold on my cheeks.  Poor Sue went along with me and by the time we got back to the house, she was carrying one paw and then another.  She was so cold.  No snow boots or hard hoofs on her feet like me or the cows and sheep.  Once in the house she was just fine.
 Looking back

Today we had great relief from the cold.  Yeah, it was still really cold here compared to California or Hawaii, but I went out snowshoeing under sunny 12 degree skies.  There's nothing like my fur-lined bomber cap for real warmth when there's wind and cold.  I even removed my mittens through part of the walk.  Snowshoeing really gets the heart pumping and keeps the body fairly warm.  It's mainly the exposed, bare skin on my face that suffers a little and sometimes my toes get cold.  The wind wasn't as strong today so I didn't feel bitten by the cold much, especially with fur next to my skin. 

For years I've been trying out different boots to wear with my snowshoes and have not yet found the perfect thing.  I've snowshoed in sneakers, Bogs, and packs.  It's so much like walking that you want a good-fitting athletic shoe that doesn't hurt your feet as well as a boot that is warm and waterproof.  A tall order, I know.  I just ordered a new boot, the Vasque Pow Wow.  I am so hoping that this is The Boot. 

The dogs had a blast today, running and chasing jackrabbits through the trees.  I had a blast too.  I don't know why I love being out there trudging through snow, but I do.  There's a different view that I appreciate.  The sky seems bluer, the bare trees look beautiful with an icy-blue background.  The snow drifts are etched like sand dunes, and on certain days, there are ice crystals shimmering in the air and on the snow.  Jackrabbit tracks and deer tracks are peppered here and there and of course, today there were dog prints from happy, romping dogs and snowshoe prints from a happy ranchwife.  I love it all.


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